Class _ Q^l I f 5, T
Book >L %
METHUEN'S SPORTS SERIES
ALL ABOUT FLYING
GOLF DO'S AND DON'T'S
THE GOLFING SWING
HOW TO SWIM
H. R. Austin
A. E. Crawley
A. E. Crawley
CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING Arnold Lunn
METHUEN & GO. LTD., LONDON
WITH DIAGRAMS AND EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS
METHUEN & CO. LTD.
36 ESSEX STREET W.C.
First Published in IQ20
CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING ' is neither a re-
print nor revision of my first book on ski-ing,
which has become out of date in the course of time.
The present book has been written afresh. My
views on the technique of ski-ing and on snowcraft
have altered completely since my first book appeared.
The aim of this little book is severely practical.
I have confined myself in the main to the technique
of ski-ing, and have attempted to provide the be-
ginner with a handbook which will serve his purpose.
At the same time I am rash enough to hope that even
advanced runners may find something of interest in
I have added a short chapter on snowcraft. In
addition to the usual winter visits I have spent four
entire winters in the High Alps, and the Alpine winter
begins in October and ends in May. I have there-
fore had unique opportunities for studying snow-
craft. I may mention incidentally that some of the
finest ski-ing that I have ever enjoyed has been in
the month of May, and that there is no month in the
Alpine year in which I have not had a first-class run
either in the High Alps or at the lower levels.
I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to
vi CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
Vivian Caulfeild, who has read this book in proof
and helped me with numerous suggestions, and to
the following gentlemen who have kindly allowed
me to reproduce their Ski-ing photographs: Herr
Gyger of Adelboden, Monsieur Monnier of Montana,
and my friend Captain Carlyon. In this book
I have confined myself to cross-country ski-ing
below the glacier line. I may perhaps be allowed
to refer the reader intent on ski tours in the High
Alps to my own contribution to Mountain Craft.
Mountain Craft is edited by Mr. G. W. Young
and contains contributions from many British
mountaineers on all aspects of mountaineering.
After the final proofs of this book had been sent to the
press a friend pointed out to me that the phrase ' lean for-
ward ' was liable to be misconstrued by beginners.
Lean forward does not mean bend forward.
In all ski-ing movements the body from the waist up-
wards must be absolutely upright. It is fatal to bend
forward from the hips. This is equally true for straight
running and for the swings. In the Telemark, for instance,
it is most important to get your weight forward and to
avoid hanging back, but in the effort to do this you must be
very careful to avoid bending the body above the waist.
The body from the waist upwards must be upright and per-
pendicular to the ski in all ski-ing movements.
Uphill and Straight Running .... 37
How to Ski 46
The Elements of Snowcraft .... 106
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
1 Straight Running Frontispiece
From a photo by Gyger, Adelboden,
* Half-way through a Stemming Turn . . 60
From a photo by Capt, Carlyon.
j A Christiania Swing (I) . . ' . . . 68
From a photo by Gyger, Adelboden.
J A Christiania Swing (II) 74
From a photo by Gyger, Adelboden.
Starting a Downhill 'Closti' . . . • . 76
From a photo by Monnier, Montana.
' Right and Left Telemarks .... 82
Fro?n a photo by Gyger, Adelboden.
Half-way through a Downhill Telemark . 86
From a photo by Gyger, Adelboden.
v The Jump Turn 92
From a photo by Monnier, Montana,
I WILL begin by assuming that the reader has
made up his mind to ski, and as the object
of this book is severely practical I will not waste
space by attempting to describe the joys of ski-ing.
Ski-ing has one obvious advantage over all other
winter sports ; skating depends on an artificial ice-rink
and tobogganing on an artificial run. In the event
of a thaw the skater or tobogganer is helpless, but
there are very few conditions of snow which are so
hopeless that the ski-runner cannot find ski-ing,
though he may have to go some distance from the
hotel in search of it. Apart from the actual joy of
the movement, ski-ing is the noblest of all winter
sports, for it opens to its devotees the whole mountain
world, from the glacier to the humblest afternoon runs
on the lower hills. Incidentally ski-ing is an all-the-
year-round sport ; there is no month in the year in
which I have not enjoyed first-class ski-ing, and there
is no month in the year in which I have enjoyed better
ski-ing than I have in May. Four days on ski among
2 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
the glaciers of the Oberland in May stand out in
memory as the very finest experience that the Alps
have ever yielded me. Summer ski-ing is rapidly
gaining in popularity, and the day is, perhaps, not far
distant when the Club Huts will be provided with
skis, and when the great snow peaks of the Alps, such
as Monte Rosa, will hardly ever be ascended even in
July or August by parties on foot.
To attain proficiency to make long tours on skis
is not at all a difficult matter. It is far easier to
become a third-class ski-runner than a third-class
skater ; first-class ski-ing, however, and first-class
jumping require more nerve than perhaps any other
sport, and are at least as difficult as first-class skating.
One sometimes hears people remark that they pro-
pose to devote themselves to skating rather than
ski-ing because skating is always useful in England,
whereas ski-ing is only useful in Switzerland. To those
one can reply that there are plenty of opportunities for
ski-ing in England, that even if this were not so the
argument seems somewhat foolish. One would not
expect a hunter in Africa to confine himself to potting
rabbits, on the ground that he would have so few
opportunities of shooting lions in England. I said
that it is comparatively easy to learn to ski ; I have
known many people who are quite hopeless at the
ordinary English sports but who yet made very fair
ski-runners. My own experience is very much to the
point. Many years ago I was the victim of a serious
mountaineering accident which left me with a short
and lame right foot, a stiff ankle, and an open wound.
Before I could manage to walk two miles on the level
I had succeeded in climbing 3000 feet on the skis, and
in ski-ing with reasonable speed and security. Even
to-day I find great difficulty in descending a mountain
in summer on foot. A foot descent causes me dis-
comfort and pain, but I have more than once climbed
8000 feet on skis in mid-winter, and I have averaged
6000 feet of ascent in soft powder snow for four con-
secutive days. I mention this in the hope of en-
couraging other people who have been disabled, either
in the war or elsewhere, to take up ski-ing. Many
of those who have been partially disabled in this war
would certainly be able to ski.
I have assumed then that the reader is a novice,
that he has never put on a pair of skis, and that he is
anxious to discover the best way to set about ski-ing.
First let him see that his outfit is complete and of
good quality (see Chapter 11).
For his first season the following are essential ; he
must possess good skis, a pair of ski-ing boots, two
ski sticks, sealskins, a rucksack and two or three
pairs of gloves and some protection for his ears if the
weather turns cold. This complete outfit can be
purchased for less than a five-pound note. Whereas
the golfer is always having to buy new balls, the ski-
runner who treats his skis properly will find that a
good pair of skis will last him for several seasons.
Equipment for ski-ing is really ridiculously cheap as
compared with such sports as golf or fishing.
After purchasing his outfit, the beginner should put
himself in the hands of a good ski teacher. There is
no sport of which more can be learnt from a good
teacher, or even from a good book, than ski-ing. The
4 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
ski-ing turns and swings do not depend, unless ex-
ecuted at a very high speed indeed, upon knack or
intricate balance. There is only one difficulty about
ski-ing — the fear of falling. If a beginner could be
found who positively enjoyed falling on his head I
would guarantee that he passed his second-class test
within a fortnight.
A Telemark turn, for example, simply depends on
putting the skis in a certain position and resolutely
holding them in that position throughout the turn.
The only difficulty is that a beginner is so frightenecj
of falling that he hangs back, and lets his skis run
together. I believe that a perfectly fearless beginner
would be able to carry out a slow, down-hill Telemark
turn at his first attempt ; in fact I have seen a be-
ginner do this. Any man whose nerve is not com-
pletely hopeless, and who has got sufficient balance
to stand steadily on one leg without waving the other
leg in the air, should be able to become a really good
ski-runner. I do not mean that he would equal a
first-class Swiss or Norwegian runner, but he should
be able to run fast on all ordinary snow, and to make
all ordinary turns at a high speed, but in order to
attain this standard he must be properly taught.
Good teaching is, however, vital. Curiously enough
the best performers are often the worst teachers.
They make their turns without conscious effort and
without conscious understanding of the process, so
that Norwegians, who are the finest of all ski-runners,
are sometimes indifferent teachers. Let me illustrate
this with a short anecdote. In the early days of ski-
ing Caulfeild was watching with great admiration a
distinguished Norwegian runner executing some rapid
Christianias. He approached him politely and asked
him to explain the manoeuvre. The Norwegian re-
plied, ' Oh, it 's quite easy, you just run down the hill
like this, keeping your feet together. When you wish
to turn you press your skis together, you lean to the
left and edge your skis to the left, holding them close
together.' He proceeded to show Caulfeild how this
was done, and, of course, fell heavily on to his side.
This made him very angry ; he immediately rushed
up the hill again, flew down disregarding all his own
theory, and executed a perfect Christiania without
leaving Caulfeild any the wiser as to how the Christi-
ania was effected.
Seize every opportunity you can of watching Nor-
wegians ski, but do not necessarily follow their advice.
I once read a translation of a Norwegian book on ski-
ing, and the descriptions of the turns and swings
struck me as being absolutely unsound. The best
teacher is the man who realizes the difficulties of
learning, because he has himself taken so long to
acquire the correct methods.
It was not until Caulfeild wrote his book that the
very simple theory which explains all ski-ing turns
and swings was clearly and simply stated. Caul-
feild's book produced a revolution in English ski-ing,
which, until then, had been dominated by the timid
and ugly Lillienfeld style. Ski-runners who, like the
present writer, struggled for years without ever bring-
ing off a really good swing, learned in a few days,
either from Caulfeild himself or from his book, the
simple secret of these very simple manoeuvres.
6 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
The great difference between ski-ing and, shall we
say, golf is this. If you put a beginner on a slope
and make him, while he is still stationary, arrange
his skis in a certain position, he is bound to execute
a slow Telemark unless he loses his head. If, on the
other hand, Harry Vardon was coaching a beginner
at golf, no amount of instruction could ensure that
the beginner would not slice or pull. A late cut at
cricket or a long drive at golf involves knack, a good
eye, and an unconscious control of one's arms so as
to hit the ball in a particular way. A slow turn at
ski-ing involves conscious control but neither knack
nor intricate balance, nor a good eye ; it is simply a
matter of doing as you are told. The only difficulty
is that, whereas at golf a beginner who makes a bad
shot does not do himself any damage, a ski-runner
who does not pull off a swing is liable to fall, and
though falling in soft snow is usually quite painless,
it is always more or less disagreeable. If the beginner
will copy out the general directions on page 57 and
take this with him to the practice ground, he will, I
think, find that he can make all the turns and swings
at a slow speed at the end of a week. High speed
comes with time, and of course a very fast swing does
demand knack and a good natural balance, but a slow
turn or swing only calls for a little pluck and the
determination to do as you are told. At the end of
his first week the beginner, who is properly taught,
should be able to make a short tour of say 2000 to
2500 feet without undue fatigue, and without too
The beginner, duly provided with a good pair of
skis and a good teacher, has reached the practice
ground for his first lesson. If his teacher knows his
business he will insist from the first that the beginner
carries two sticks and that he never puts these two
sticks into one hand. The beginner should realize
that the sticks should only be used for helping him
to climb, and that they should never be used to reduce
his speed or to help out a turn. The beginner will
never make a good ski-runner unless he realizes that
the control of direction and the control of speed must
be effected entirely by the correct weighting and the
correct manoeuvre of the skis without the least help
from the sticks. There are a few occasions when a
more drastic use of the stick is permitted, but such
occasions are rare, and the beginner can postpone any
consideration of such possibilities until he has at least
succeeded in passing the third-class test.
The best snow in winter is usually found on
northern slopes which are protected from the sun,
and which therefore remains soft and powdery long
after southern slopes have acquired a hard crust as
the result of snow being melted and re-frozen at
night. The average practice ground usually becomes
hard and beaten down. Such snow is admirable for
practising Stemming turns and Christianias, but a
Telemark on a hard practice ground is very difficult
indeed. For the Telemark the beginner should find
a slope facing north which is more or less un tracked.
By the time the beginner can make Stemming turns
and Christianias on practice grounds he is very apt to
have an exaggerated idea of his power and ability.
It is one thing to go up and down one slope until its
8 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
gradient is absolutely familiar, and it is quite another
thing to ski over unknown country. You may be
able to rush down the practice slope at a very fast
speed, and yet fall repeatedly when running across
country. Do not let your first tour depress you.
You are always certain to fall far more than you
expect, and the turns which you executed so easily
on the practice ground or on some little slope near
the hotel will suddenly seem beyond your reach. But
if you persevere you will soon recover them. At
almost every big centre there are tours for beginners,
and tours specially graded according to the type of
test which the ski-runner has passed. The natural
tendency of every ski-runner is to avoid any speed
at which he feels uncomfortable. This tendency
must be fought. In a very short time you will be
able to run steadily without falling at a certain speed,
and it is quite possible to stagnate for several seasons
unless one makes a deliberate and constant effort
always to run rather faster than one likes, thereby
raising what may be called one's safety speed. One
of the best methods of raising one's safety speed is
to enter for tests and races. When you are ski-ing
against time you are bound to ski much faster than
you would otherwise do. Seize every opportunity
of ski-ing in a party whose average speed is faster
than your own. At the same time you should be very
careful not to force yourself on a party if the leader
of that party shows any doubt as to your capacity
to undertake the tour. This kind of thing is always
happening — Brown, who is a good runner, gets up an
expedition for moderate performers. Included in
this expedition is a ski-runner whom we will call
Smith ; Smith in the opinion of the leader is just
capable of carrying through the tour — and only just.
On the evening before the tour, Jones approaches
Brown and explains that he is quite as good as Smith
and would like to join the expedition. Brown knows
that Jones, as a matter of fact, is rather worse than
Smith, but he reluctantly consents. A few minutes
later Robinson, who is rather worse than Jones, comes
up to the unfortunate Brown and explains that he
hears that Jones is going on the expedition, and he
thinks if Jones could manage it he could manage it
too. And so the process goes on, until Miss X. is also
included in the expedition. Miss X. is considerably
worse than Robinson, and Robinson is worse than
Jones, and Jones is worse than Smith, and Smith
represents the bare minimum of efficiency for the
tour in question. Furthermore there is some peculiar
fatality which ensures that a thoroughly inefficient
runner should always start in the expedition with skis
that do not fit, and with Huitfeld binding, which
breaks half way down the mountain. The tour,
which might have been quite a good tour if only
Smith had been included, is a pure fiasco. Jones and
Robinson become discouraged within five minutes of
starting the run downhill, and Miss X. has to have her
skis removed, while the unfortunate leader who organ-
ized the tour walks downhill carrying her skis and
making tracks in the deep snow. No good runner
should object to taking expeditions composed of
beginners, but he has the right to exclude anybody
who is manifestly unfit, and it is very bad taste to
io CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
thrust yourself on a party if the leader shows any
hesitation as to your efficiency. Far and away the
best plan is to attempt to pass the various tests, from
the elementary test upwards, and to join tours the
qualifications for which is the passing of such tests.
I HAVE often noticed with surprise that men who
have spent pounds on their equipment for other
sports, who would not dream of trying to learn golf
with hired clubs or borrowing a tennis racket for a
season, will none the less cheerfully hire a pair of skis.
This is all the more incomprehensible, because a broken
ski near the summit of a mountain always means a
spoilt run and sometimes involves the whole party in a
very dangerous situation. A man who spends any-
thing from £20 to £50 on a ski-ing holiday may well
pay a premium of a few shillings in order to insure
against broken skis and broken bindings.
Even people who buy good skis often treat their
skis with amazing carelessness. No good cricketer
would go through a season without oiling his bat, but
many good ski-runners are quite content if their skis
are oiled in the summer. The extra money spent on
buying really good skis and the extra trouble devoted
to keeping these skis in good running condition are
repaid a hundredfold. Hired skis are always in bad
condition, they are almost always composed of very
inferior wood, they are generally warped and out of
line. I will assume then that the beginner has wisely
decided to buy a first-class pair of skis.
12 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
The terminology of ski-ing is rather vague, and
throughout this book I shall use certain terms to
define certain parts of the ski.
Fig. i represents a ski : the binding is omitted for
the sake of clearness. The running surface of the
ski which is next to the snow is not visible in this
cgggggzaz^r , s ZZ 2 ' ' ZJ Zzzzz ^, ,, y , - -^
figure. A is the heel of the ski, CD the up-turn,
D the point. B is the arch of the ski, for a well-
made pair of skis are not made absolutely flat, but
slightly arched in the middle.
The following table gives the length of the ski
in metres for ski-runners of varying heights. Skis
are sold in certain stock sizes, but Norwegian and
Swiss firms have different standards, so that it is
always wise to order the skis, not by stock size, but
by length in metres. The beginner should choose
his skis with the help of this table.
Height of Ski-runner
Length of Ski
6 feet 4 inches.
6 „ 2
6 „ o
5 „ io
5 » 8 „
5 >> 5t >>
5 n 2| „
Height of Ski-runner
Length of Ski
5 feet o inches.
4 » 9i
4 „ 7
4 » 2j
3 » 4
LONG SKIS VerSUS SHORT SKIS
Long skis are steadier for straight running, they
glide over slight inequalities in the ground which
would shake a ski-runner on shorter skis. Long skis
are faster, they sink less into the snow and are there-
fore pleasanter both for the ascent and the descent in
very soft snow. For jumping, of course, very long
skis are essential. Short skis are easier to turn on ;
they are lighter and involve rather less effort in the
ascent. When the snow is difficult and hard, short
skis have a distinct advantage for downhill turns,
though a good runner can make his turns on almost
any snow with long or with short skis. Turns on
difficult snow involve more effort on long skis than
on short skis. The kick turn on steep slopes is also
much easier with short skis.
I advise the beginner who is going to take ski-ing
seriously to get two pairs of skis, his first pair of skis
should be selected from the above table. As soon
as possible he should get a ski at least a size longer,
and he should use his long skis on moderate expedi-
tions on good snow as soon as he has learnt to make
his turns on his shorter skis. By this plan he will be
able always to keep one pair of skis in the press and
14 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
properly oiled. He will find his short skis useful even
when he becomes more expert, when the snow is really
difficult. Moreover if, as often happens, he goes off
his Telemark or his Christiania, he will find an hour
or so on the practice slope on the short skis the best
cure. Just as a golfer who is off his drive will keep his
driver in his bag and play with a cleek from the tee,
so a ski-runner who is off his turns can often recover
his lost form by using shorter skis.
If the beginner can get hold of a pair of really
short summer skis just for the purpose of learning his
turns he will master stemming and the other swings
in half the time that he would on long skis. Borrow
the shortest pair you can find to learn turns, but buy
your ski with the help of the table on pp. 12 and 13.
My own height is six feet, and according to the
above table my skis would be size 3. As a matter of
fact I keep five different sizes. Size 1 for all ordinary
expeditions when the snow is good, size 2 for very long
expeditions or over difficult snow, sizes 3 and 4 for
mountaineering in winter or spring. I have also got
a very short pair of summer skis about i'6o metres
in length for summer ski-ing. For a man of average
build, skis, the point of which he can just reach with
the tips of his fingers when placed upright will be a
long pair, and will in general be about a size longer
than the lengths given in the above table.
Provided a ski-runner goes to a really first-class
firm and orders a ski of the length which he considers
most suitable for his purposes he need not bother
very much about the width, thickness and general
shape of the ski, as he can be certain that a good firm
will know how to cut their skis properly. If, on the
other hand, he buys his skis from a firm that is just
beginning to make skis, the chances are that he will
get a badly cut ski. I have seen skis in which the
single groove was badly out of true, the up-turn
warped and the two edges of the ski not symmetrical.
In order to test a ski hold it by the heel so that a very
much foreshortened view is obtained, and looking
first along the upper side see whether the up-turn is
true, and whether the point of the ski is exactly in
the middle, then look along the sole and see whether
the groove is central and quite true, and whether the
edges are symmetrical.
The width of the ski at the narrowest part varies
from two and three-quarters to three inches. A
narrow ski is steadier than a broad ski, more easy to
turn and much easier to control during the traverse
of a steep slope on hard snow.
For jumping, where great flexibility is undesirable,
skis should be chosen of ample thickness. A flexible
and elastic ski is more comfortable for ordinary
The up-turn of the ski should be about one-fifth the
length of the entire ski and should be gradual, as an
abrupt up-turn makes the sld run more slowly and
less smoothly. The height of the arch should be only
just sufficient to prevent the ski from resting on soft
snow and bending downwards in the middle under
the runner's weight. A ski which is too much arched
is slow and difficult to turn. A ski which has lost its
arch is unsteady on hard snow though very easy for
turning. An otherwise good pair of skis should not
16 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
be rejected because the arch is incorrect, as errors in
the arch can quickly be corrected by strapping the
skis together with a wedge of anything handy, such
as wood or books.
The groove. — Skis occasionally are sold without a
groove. These should never be bought, as the groove
keeps the skis straight and makes an appreciable
difference in turning. For jumping, in fact, skis
should be provided with one main groove and two
WOOD AND GRAIN
Skis are made of various woods, and though service-
able skis can be fashioned from birch or pine, they
cannot compare with skis made from ash or hickory.
Hickory is heavier and slightly stronger than ash.
It wears rather better but it is less elastic, and though
after hard use the running surface of a hickory ski is
generally in better condition than that of an ash ski,
I believe that hickory skis, owing to its lesser elas-
ticity, is more liable to break. At any rate, having
tried both, I prefer ash.
Grain. — It is a very great mistake to pay too much
attention to the grain. I possess a pair of skis with
absolutely perfect parallel straight grain on the run-
ning surface, but I would never use them for a tour
of any length owing to their lightness. Good ash is
always heavy and though heavy skis are a nuisance
to carry, a ski-runner should choose ash rather by
its weight than by its grain. Provided the grain is
parallel with the edge of the ski at the up-turn, and
provided the grain on the sides of the ski runs back-
wards from the tip and not forwards towards the tip,
and provided the ash is heavy, the ski-runner need
not bother very much even if the grain is irregular.
The objection to grain which runs out towards the tip
is that as the skis begin to wear splinters will form
which will point forwards, and so impede progress.
Heavy ski are troublesome uphill but much pleas-
anter to ski on, especially on uneven snow. They
drive smoothly through ridges of hard snow which a
light pair of ski will glide roughly over.
Life of a ski. — A good pair of skis should stand at
least six months of continuous ski-ing, that is to say
six ordinary seasons. Skis wear out much more
quickly on hard than on soft snow, and a few days
ski-ing on really hard snow tries the skis as much as
many weeks on powder snow.
When the skis begin to wear the grain stands out,
and if the grain is irregular this makes running diffi-
cult. It is, however, perfectly simple to send the
skis down to any first-class firm, who will scrape the
running surface and send it back quite smooth. A
ski which would otherwise run very irregularly can
easily be transformed into a first-class pair by this
Colour of the skis. — Black skis look very handsome,
and are useful for running in a mist or by moonlight,
as the black ski points help to throw up the back-
ground and to reveal the gradient. On the other
hand, black skis are a nuisance on warm days as the
snow which collects on the exposed surface melts,
more readily on dark than on light skis, so that black
18 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
skis are apt to collect an accumulation of wet snow
There are two main types of bindings, those in
which the toe-irons are fixed to the skis, and those in
which the toe-irons are movable and in which the
point of revolution is in front of the toe. These
bindings are sometimes called heel and sole bindings
respectively. This is misleading, for though most
sole bindings, such as the Lillienfeld and Bilgeri have
movable toe-irons, the Ellefsen, which has rigid toe-
irons, is also a sole binding, and though most heel
bindings (i.e. those in which the strap passes round
the heel), such as the Huitfeld, have rigid toe-irons,
the Schuster is a heel binding with movable toe-irons.
I prefer to use the term rigid binding for those in
which the toe-irons are fixed to the skis, and the term
spring binding for those in which the toe-irons are
attached to a plate which revolves vertically round
a point in front of the toes and is controlled by a
Rigid Bindings. — There are numberless rigid bind-
ings on the market, of which the best known are the
Huitfeld, the Ellefsen and the BB. I have experi-
mented not only with these three bindings, but with
almost every binding on the market, and I have come
to the conclusion that the BB is far and away the best
rigid binding as yet invented. The Huitfeld is per-
haps the most popular, but it suffers very serious dis-
advantages. The straps are always wearing out just
underneath the toe-irons, and in crusted snow they
impede progress, and on traverses are constantly
catching. Beginners never seem to be able to fix
their Huitfelds properly, the binding is not very easy
to repair on tour, the leather is always stretching, so
that the binding needs regular adjustment, and lastly,
the binding has become rather expensive owing to
the rise in the value of leather. However as many
— if not most — runners use the Huitf eld, the following
points about the Huitfeld must be noted.
In adjusting a new Huitfeld binding to your boots
note carefully the following points : —
(i) When the binding is adjusted there should be
just enough freedom to allow the knee just to touch
the front of the ski. Therefore the toe-irons should
be fitted so that when the boot is thrust home the toe
only just projects beyond the toe-strap. If the toe-
strap crosses the boot too far back a fall forward
may strain the foot.
(2) The heel must come in the middle of the ski.
This involves the fact that the inside toe-iron is less
inclined to the side of the ski than the outside toe-
iron. If the toe-irons are symmetrical the boot heel
will be too much on the inner side of the ski.
In order to adjust the toe-irons in conformity with
these requirements they must be hammered or bent,
and a heavy screw wrench is very useful for this pur-
(3) The toe-strap — if the toe-irons are properly
adjusted — may be quite loose. The heel-strap must
be so tight that it is only just possible to pull it over
the heel. To prevent the heel-strap slipping off the
boot the heel of the boot should be made to project,
20 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
and both top and bottom of this projection should
be rounded off so that the strap can be easily pulled
off and on. This is a simpler and more satis-
factory arrangement than the buckle and strap with
which many ski boots are fitted. It is essential
that this heel-strap should be tight, as its tension
limits the vertical movement of the foot and so makes
it easier to lift the heel of the ski, and also by driving
the boot into the toe-irons prevents nearly all lateral
If the toe-irons loosen and tend to wobble, small
wooden wedges may be driven between them and the
hole in the ski, but these wedges should be fixed beside
and not below the toe-irons or the ski may split.
The beginner should not entrust the adjustment of
his ski to the hard-worked professionals in charge of
hired ski. They have to adjust several pairs a day,
a troublesome business, and they are not likely to
devote sufficient trouble to each individual case unless
they are supervised. Too much importance cannot
be attached to the accurate adjustment of toe-irons
and straps. Every one who uses a Huitfeld should
carry with him on tour a ' Lapp thong ' which can
be fitted up as a make-shift binding should the
Ski-runners whose toes are stiff, either naturally or
as the result of an accident, must use spring bindings.
If they use the rigid binding, such as the Huitfeld or
BB, they will not be able to kneel on their skis or to
Telemark. In the event of a bad forward fall they
will perhaps damage themselves, and in any case
suffer severe pain. As the result of a badly broken
leg, the toes of my own right foot are very nearly
rigid, and various attempts to ski with the Huitfeld
binding resulted in acute pain when I fell forward,
and consequently a very nervous style of running in
order to avoid forward falls. There are many people
whose toes are naturally stiff. In order to test this,
before ordering a pair of skis put on your boots and
see if you can almost touch the ground with your
knee, keeping the ball of your foot and your toes on
the ground. If you can get within six or eight inches
of the ground with your knee before the ball of your
foot leaves the ground you will be able to use a rigid
toe binding, otherwise you must use a spring binding.
The earliest form of spring binding is the well-
known Lillienfeld, which was invented by Herr
Zdarsky. Zdarsky rendered a very great service to
ski-ing in Austria ; though he taught a bad style, he
persuaded thousands to take up ski-ing. Much the
same may be said of his binding. The binding has
now been superseded by far better bindings on the
same principle, but though no modern ski-runner
would use the Lillienfeld, all those who have stiff toes
have reason to be grateful to Zdarsky for his invention
of spring bindings.
The Bilgeri is lighter and more comfortable than
the Lillienfeld. The Bilgeri, however, has one fatal
disadvantage. It is very liable to break, and once
broken it is impossible to repair. I have broken five
Bilgeri bindings in as many weeks, after which I
22 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
decided that the Bilgeri, despite its many good points,
was not the binding for a man who made long tours.
The Schuster binding is a spring binding which is
thoroughly reliable. It possesses the usual feature
of spring bindings, the toe-irons are movable and
revolve vertically round a point in front of the toes.
The vertical motion is controlled, as in all spring
bindings, by a strong spring.
The metal sole-plate of the Lillienfeld and Bilgeri
is replaced by heel-straps very like the Huitfeld, with
the usual Ellefsen clamp. Full particulars as to
fixing on the binding are supplied in the booklet
issued by the makers. The first few days the toe-
irons need constant re-adjustment, as they are apt to
work loose. They are adjusted by means of a key
and screws, but after a week or so they need very little
I have never known the main part of the Schuster
binding break or get out of order, nor have I known
the heel-strap break. It is, however, perfectly easy
to carry a spare heel-strap, which can be fitted with
the greatest possible ease in a few seconds. It is
most important to remember to carry the Schuster
key on tour. It should always be left at the bottom
of the rucksack ready.
Rigid Bindings versus Spring Bindings. — Many
people use spring bindings whose toes are not stiff.
This, I think, is a mistake. I am in a unique position
for comparing rigid bindings with spring bindings,
ski-ing for many seasons with a spring binding
(Schuster) on my damaged leg and a rigid binding
(the BB) on my sound leg. The disadvantages of
spring bindings are as follows : — They are very much
heavier than rigid bindings ; the foot is higher above
the ski on a spring binding because the foot, instead
of resting on the ski, rests on a metal plate or toe-piece.
The more the foot and the ski move as one and the
closer they are together, the easier the balance. The
vertical control in spring bindings, though regulated
by the spring, is much slacker than in rigid bindings.
Climbing in rigid bindings is more comfortable than
in spring bindings. In deep snow, if the back of the
ski gets caught it is often difficult and very tiresome
to extricate the ski if you are using a spring binding.
For straight running in Telemark position it is diffi-
cult to control the back ski if you are using spring
bindings. I always, where possible, run with my bad
leg leading so as to keep my BB ski behind. I also
find the Telemark turn very much easier to control if
the back foot is attached to the ski by a rigid binding.
To sum up, I advise people with normal toes to use
the BB binding, and those with stiff toes to use the
Schuster binding. Those who, like myself, have got
one normal foot and another foot with stiff toes,
should use a Schuster binding on the damaged foot
and a BB binding on the other foot.
The BB Binding, — The BB binding entirely dis-
penses with the heel-straps. It involves a permanent
attachment to the boots consisting of a small prong.
The boot is put through the toe-irons, and there is an
ingenious arrangement for securing the prong and
clamping it into position. The toe-irons need to be
very exactly fitted, and what has been written of the
Huitfeld applies, as far as toe-irons are concerned, to
24 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
the BB. Once they are fitted even the toe-strap is
unnecessary, so that absolutely no straps are necessary
for the BB binding, though as a matter of fact the
toe-strap is usually kept. The binding is extremely
easy to put on and to take off, and most reliable. It
was adopted by all the British officers interned at
Miirren, and given a thorough trial during the winter
season which began in October and ended in May.
I myself use it constantly and have tested it on very
severe expeditions. I have never known a BB break
down on tour or elsewhere. It is sometimes objected
that the iron prong which is worn on the boots would
be a nuisance during an ascent on foot on very hard
snow or on easy rocks. I have never found this to be
the case, and as all ski-runners use crampons when
climbing such slopes on foot there is not the least
reason why the toe-iron should interfere. I have done
a number of big peaks, such as the Aletschhorn,
Wetterhorn, etc., with the BB and I am thoroughly
satisfied that it is the best binding on the market.
It is sometimes claimed that the BB is not so safe a
binding as the Huitfeld. It certainly has not quite so
much lateral play, but the percentage of accidents
with the BB is certainly not higher than with any
As to the adjustment of the BB binding, a great
deal that has been written above with reference to
the adjustment of the Huitfeld binding applies
equally to the BB. A Lapp thong should be carried
on tour, so that if anything should happen to the BB
clamp a Lapp thong can be adjusted to form a
CARE OF SKIS
It is surprising how little care the average runner
bestows upon his skis, a casualness which spoils his
ski and consequently his runs.
The running surfaces of new skis should be re-
peatedly oiled with raw Unseed oil until the wood is
saturated. It is no use continuing to oil them once
the oil sticks on the surface without sinking in. The
skis should be put in the sun to dry between each
coating of oil. It is a tiresome process, and it is best
when ordering skis before the winter season to ask
the firm that supplies them if they will give them their
preliminary oiling. Many ski-runners seem to think
that this preliminary oiling is all that is necessary
— a great mistake. The first oil soon rubs off, and it
is an excellent plan to oil the skis at the end of every
day's run for at least a week or two. A slight oiling
is all that is necessary, and the oil should be rubbed in
with a rag. This unpleasant task can be entrusted
to the ' Boots/ When this process has been repeated
half a dozen times or so, the ski should then be given
a coat of hard wax. The wax which is sold under the
modest name of c The Best ' is very good for this
purpose ; it should be rubbed into the skis with an
iron which is slightly warm : this gives a beautifully
fast and even running surface. This hard wax should
be rubbed in about once a week or so.
The object of oiling and waxing is not only to pre-
vent the ski sticking in the snow, though this of course
is very important, but it is also intended to preserve
the skis in good condition. Any wood which is ex-
26 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
posed to damp begins to rot and to warp. The oil
and the wax preserve the skis from damp. The run-
ning surfaces of my own skis are always absolutely
black with oil and wax, and the nioment this black
surface begins to wear off I renew the oiling and wax-
ing process. Dampness not only rots the wood but
it makes the skis warp, and warped skis are extremely
uncomfortable to ski on. In order to prevent skis
warping it is very important to keep them in an
equable temperature. Beginners often take their
skis with them up to their rooms and leave them in a
warm corridor. If this is done the skis should be
thoroughly dried first, as nothing is worse for skis than
to leave then in a damp condition in a very warm
atmosphere after they have been out in the snow.
It is far best to leave them in some shed where the
temperature is below freezing. In any case, when you
come in from your run you should remove all super-
fluous snow from your skis and dry them with a rag.
Skis will not keep their shape unless they are constantly
pressed. Far and away the best plan is to have two
pairs of skis, and to keep one in the press for a few
days at ajtime while you are using the other, and
Even when the skis have been thoroughly oiled
snow will sometimes be found to stick, so that level
walking or climbing is very hard work and sliding
downhill impossible. The hard wax known as ' The
Best ' is not very easy to apply on tour, as it needs
warming slightly in order to get a good surface. It
is best to keep this wax for indoor preparation, and
to carry in your sack some of the collapsible tubes of
soft wax which are sold by every ski-ing firm. This
wax can be rubbed on to the surface of the ski with
a rag, and the effect is generally very satisfactory.
Beginners often assume that fast ski are difficult
to ski on. Of course a ski which is thoroughly waxed
would be very difficult to climb on. This does not,
however, apply to skis which have been well prepared
by oiling. Oil merely prevents wet snow sticking to
the skis, and a well oiled pair of skis is quite easy to
climb on even without sealskins. Beginners should
remember that slow, sticky skis are far more likely to
upset them than a fast pair of skis, and that the worst
falls are the result of skis suddenly sticking in the
course of a run. Fast skis may run faster than slow
skis, but they also run more smoothly and more easily.
REPAIRING A BROKEN SKI
A broken ski is unfortunately a by no means un-
common accident. A ski is most likely to break at
the up-turn. If the broken point is not lost, as often
happens in deep snow where it is sometimes sur-
prisingly difficult to find even large objects that have
buried themselves in a drift, it is best to mend the
break with what is known as a Norwegian clamp.
It is necessary, of course, to carry something to drive
a hole through the ski. See that the clamps are deep
enough to be used even if the ski breaks a few inches
in front of the binding. Most clamps at present on
the market are too shallow. The best type of clamp
are those provided with winged nuts which can be
screwed on with the fingers. This saves carrying a
28 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
special spanner to tighten up, which would be needed
for ordinary nuts. Commonsense will ensure that
the broken parts of the ski should be overlapped.
If the nuts have been left at home a rough but effec-
tive substitute can be made by boring four holes in
each of the two broken parts of the ski and thread-
ing a stout piece of string through them. This has
been tried with fairly satisfactory results.
False metal tips are sold which can be used if the
point is lost. These are not satisfactory. (The best
is the model invented by Major Pery.) In the first
place they do not hold on very firmly. In the second
place they make the ski run badly. For long ex-
peditions a spare wooden up-turn is sometimes carried.
This is a good plan, especially if the party includes a
guide or porter to carry extra kit. The spare metal
tip is short and abruptly curved in order to make it
conveniently portable. A wooden tip is the shape of
an ordinary ski-tip, long and gradual.
The beginner must buy a pair of ski sticks. On no
account let him begin to ski with a single stick as he
will fall into bad habits at once. All modern ski
sticks are supplied with disks to prevent the sticks
sinking too far into the snow. There is a very good
pattern sold in which the disk can be removed by
means of a screw. This is useful, as the disks wear
out very quickly, and with such sticks a new disk can
be fitted in a few minutes. They have another
advantage, when it sometimes happens on dangerous
ground that one wants to remove the disk altogether
so as to drive the stick deep into the snow.
Ski sticks are usually provided with little leather
thongs at the top which are pleasant for climbing.
Ski-runners sometimes put their hands through the
thongs on the descent in order not to lose the sticks
should they fall. This is a most dangerous habit as
in the event of a bad fall the stick is apt to be flung
round and strike the ski-runner. Sometimes too the
stick remains fixed in the snow and the ski-runner is
thrown across it. I have known two runners break
their wrists through ski-ing with their hands in this
Sealskins. — Detachable sealskins are a great aid to
climbing, as they prevent back slipping. Detachable
sealskins are sold in various forms. It is better to
buy a sealskin that covers the whole length of the ski.
Half length sealskins prevent back slipping, but whole
length serve another purpose, as they prevent wet
snow sticking to the surface of the ski in heavy masses.
They should fit well, and be adjustable by clamps and
not by buckles. For long tours they are almost
indispensable, as they save at least twenty per cent, in
time and labour. A runner who always uses seal-
skin can keep the running surface of ski much more
highly waxed or varnished than the runner who
climbs on naked ski.
A slippery ski, failing sealskin, may be prevented
from back-slipping by tying one end of a cord to its
tip, passing a few half hitches round it at intervals,
hauling all tight, and tying the other end of the cord
30 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
to the binding. This, however, is a very unsatisfac-
tory arrangement compared to the sealskin. The
sealskin is so arranged that the lie of the hair allows
it to slide forward but not backwards. The ski can
therefore be slid at each step. With a roped ski they
must be lifted, a tiresome performance. Moreover
on most climbs there is an occasional section of de-
scent. With sealskins it is possible to run downhill
if the gradient is steep or the snow hard, as downhill
the skins check but do not entirely prevent running.
A man with roped ski has either to remove the rope
or walk downhill.
The boots should be at least large enough to admit
a pair of stockings and a pair of thick goat's-hair socks.
For mountaineering and indeed for ordinary tours
three pairs of socks are almost indispensable. It is,
however, no use padding a boot with socks or stock-
ings unless your toes have plenty of room to move.
Anything that restricts the circulation is dangerous.
The boots are apt to wear away against the toe-
irons, and a useful device is to screw thin plates of
metal to the sides of the sole at these points. Boots
should, of course, be frequently greased and oiled.
Many ski-runners have no nails in their ski-ing boots.
This superstition is imported from Norway, where
the country is gentler and the need for nails is less.
Alpine country abounds in steep wood-cutter's tracks,
where the ski-runner without nails in his boots is at
a very serious disadvantage. I remember once
descending a wood-cutter's track late at night on foot
carrying my ski. I fell heavily every five minutes.
This was the last occasion on which I ever ski-ed
with nailless ski-ing boots. Nails do not interfere
with the steering and are of the greatest possible
advantage in the ascent of hard snow or icy paths.
Of course, the ski-runner does not need as heavy nails
as the mountaineer, as on serious expeditions he
must carry crampons, but a few good nails are essen-
For all glacier tours crampons are essential. The
small four-pointers are tiresome to walk on and should
not be bought. Six, or better still, eight pointed
crampons made by a good firm should be used.
Crampons are not pleasant things to carry in a sack,
and the handy little case for crampons which is now
on the market is well worth getting.
A ski-ing suit should button tightly at the wrists,
and should be provided with a collar which can be
turned up and buttoned round the neck. Trousers
are far preferable to knickerbockers. Any wind-
proof water-proof material will serve. A rough
material collects snow. The sweater lets the wind
through and collects snow. Ski-ing clothes should
be as compact as possible so that they can be taken
off when the sun is warm and stuffed into a rucksack.
For mountaineering an extra waistcoat made of silk
32 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
is very useful. Even paper waistcoats are warm
and serviceable. With trousers very small gaiters
should be worn round the ankle to prevent the snow
getting in between the trousers and the boot. I
designed a gaiter which was about six inches deep
and broad enough to go round the ankle with a good
deal to spare. This is provided with three little straps,
and two holes through which the bootlaces can be
drawn so as to keep it firmly in place. This is a far
better arrangement than the little Norwegian puttee
which just winds round the ankle. Puttees should
never be used, as they restrict the circulation — there
were many frost-bites in France owing to puttees — for
puttees must either be tight, in which case they look
neat but restrict the circulation, or loose, in which
case they have a slovenly appearance and tend to slip.
Gloves should be of the mit pattern, that is to say,
there should be one compartment for the thumb
and another for all the fingers. They should be
made of some water-proof material and lined inside
with wool. Fur gloves are excellent.
For headgear the ordinary ' Passe-montagne ' is
very serviceable. A silk scarf is invaluable, as this
can be tied on under one's cap if one uses a cap, thus
protecting the ears and chin.
ODDS AND ENDS
Rucksack. — The best rucksack for ski-ing is the
well-known Bergans model used in the Swedish Army.
Spectacles. — Even in the winter, when the light is
not strong, a pair of lightly-coloured spectacles is
. necessary, especially for people with weak eyes. A
light yellow is the best colour. Light yellow spec-
tacles are very useful when ski-ing in a mist or when
the sky is overcast, as they seem to throw out the
foreground and to enable one to pick out the gradient
much more easily. For ski-ing in May on the glaciers
spectacles should be so dark that it would be almost
impossible to see anything in an ordinary room into
which the sun was not shining directly. Spectacles
made of ' Triplex ' glass are far and away the safest,
as there is no danger of broken glass in the event of
a bad fall.
Face Cream. — After February the sun becomes
very strong and some kind of face cream is useful.
Of course for mountaineering at any time, except in
mid-winter, such face cream is essential. ' Anti-Lux '
and ' SecluS ' cream are both excellent.
Compass and Aneroid Barometer.— A. good compass
is essential. I find an aneroid barometer almost as
indispensable ; an aneroid barometer is not only a
constant interest in checking heights, but it is also
very useful for indicating the approach of bad weather.
Most Club Huts are provided with barometers but
there are plenty which are not, and an aneroid baro-
meter will often give warning to a ski-runner, who has
arrived at a height in fine weather, that a storm is
approaching, even though the next day may appear
perfectly fine at dawn. A word of warning is very
necessary. All aneroids tend, as Whymper proved
by a series of interesting experiments, to lose upon
the mercurial, in other words, an aneroid which has
been carried up 6000 feet and then remains at the
34 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
same height for some hours will always drop, even
though the mercurial barometer remains completely
steady. An aneroid will therefore apparently register
a fall in atmospheric pressure even though the atmo-
spheric pressure remains stationary. The variation
varies very much with different aneroids. My own
aneroid loses about one-tenth of an inch during the
first twelve hours at a Club Hut which is about 5000
feet above the starting-place. Similarly, an aneroid
will gain on mercurial after a big descent : thus if one
descends from Monte Rosa to the Betemps Hut, the
aneroid would tend to indicate a rise in atmospheric
pressure even though the atmospheric pressure had
remained stationary or possibly even diminished.
This would, however, to some extent, be compensated
for by the fact that the aneroid had been still losing
during the ascent to the summit of Monte Rosa. The
reader who is interested in such matters should con-
sult Wymper's book on aneroids. The Watkins'
aneroid has a mechanical adjustment which obviates
this loss on the mercurial, but the Watkins is far
too big and weighty for any but scientific mountain-
eers whose primary object is the surveying of a new
In mist the aneroid is often extremely valuable, as
it enables one to locate one's position on a given
contour. Even if you do not know exactly where
you are, it is at any rate extremely valuable to know
your height above sea level so as to limit your position
to a given contour on a Siegfried.
Lantern. — On all tours of any length a folding
lantern should be carried.
Ice- Axes. — There is an excellent ice-axe, made by
a Saasfee guide, with a detachable head, so that the
axe can be used as an ordinary ski-ing stick when the
head is not required. My guide, Knubel, always uses
such an axe, and I have seen him do some very solid
step-cutting with it. When not in use the axe head
is carried in the rucksack. The disk is also detach-
able. Knubel has used this pattern of ice-axe for
many years and has never known it fail. Ski-
runners will find that an ordinary ice-axe is clumsy
and dangerous. On most glacier tours it is only
necessary for the leading guide to carry an axe, and
the amateur need very seldom burden himself with
Carrying-Straps. — Carrying-straps are useful for
very awkward passages when the skis have to be
removed. The skis can then be slung over one's
back and all risk of dropping them is obviated.
Ropes. — Guides should not be allowed to use up
their old summer ropes in winter, a habit which
has resulted in fatal accidents. Ropes break more
easily in winter than in summer, and should therefore
be new and as strong as possible.
Knife. — A good knife should always be carried on
tour, and the pattern supplied to officers in the Swiss
Army is about as good a knife as one can want.
A good ball of stout string should always be in one's
rucksack. It should be long enough to enable one to
drag one's skis with comfort, and strong enough to
use as an emergency binding.
I never go on tour without a First-Aid case con-
taining bandages, etc. Various good patterns are
36 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
on the market. A few grains of morphia would be a
useful addition ; one-eighth of a grain might be given
safely in the case of a bad accident, and would make
a considerable difference to the victim's comfbrt
during the process of getting back.
UPHILL AND STRAIGHT RUNNING
S~\ N the level. — The first step is to put on your skis,
^s taking care that your toes do not protrude too
far through the toe-iron, or in the event of a severe
fall you will get a bad wrench. They should protrude
so far as to allow you just to kneel on your skis. On
the level do not lift but slide your skis, and keep them
parallel and as near together as possible. Give a
good lunge forward on the right foot, striking off with
the stick in your left hand. Lean well forward with
your stick as far back as possible after throwing your
weight on to the leading foot. Don't bring the other
foot up to it until the slide is nearly finished. You
will go faster if you use two sticks. Four or five
miles an hour is a very fair pace on hard snow.
Kick turn. — The kick turn is an easy and indis-
(On the level.) Lift the left ski with a sharp
swinging movement, keeping the knee unbent and
the front part of the ski well forward. Without stop-
ping, swing the ski round outwards and downwards
and lay it down beside the right ski. Then bring
the right ski round parallel to the left ski. It is easy
to do this without sticks, and in no case should you
lean heavily on the sticks during the turn.
38 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
(On a slope). — Where the slope is not too steep you
had better start with the top foot. You should
point the ski slightly uphill before beginning the turn.
On a steep hill-side in deep snow, it is perhaps better
to begin with the bottom ski.
Climbing. — If the gradient is not very steep, you
may slide uphill in much the same manner as you
slide forward on the level. As the hill steepens you
will gradually reach a point where the skis begin to
slip backwards. You can, however, advance at a
steeper gradient than would at first appear possible.
Don't try to slide your skis forwards, but raise their
points a few inches and bring the skis firmly down
with a gentle stamp. Lean back slightly and hold
your body as nearly at right angles to the slope as
possible. If you lean forward, your skis will slip away
from you. You should feel that the pressure of the
toe-straps is more obvious than on the level. The
secret of steep climbing is to advance with a slight but
firm stamping movement at each step, but usually
it is much better to choose a gradient which you
can climb without lifting the ski. It is much less
tiring to slide the skis than to lift them. Confidence
is the most important factor in success. Once you
have got the feel of the thing and cease to believe
that your skis are slipping, the rest is easy. Don't,
however, try a steeper gradient than you can com-
fortably manage. Beginners waste valuable time
by taking a hill steeper than their skis will allow.
Zigzagging. — Obviously, if you do not climb a hill
straight you will sooner or later have to turn round
and reverse your direction. Strike a line that will
UPHILL AND STRAIGHT RUNNING 39
involve as few kick turns as possible, for they waste
valuable time. While climbing keep a stick in each
hand. To put both sticks together is only advisable
on the steepest slopes of hard snow. When, however,
they are used together, they should be held towards
the hill. Never alter the gradient at which you are
climbing in order to take a short cut across a gully by
running down into it and climbing the opposite side.
Experienced ski-runners rarely change the gradient
of ascent, and an apparently long detour at a uniform
angle is always shorter than a descent followed by a
steep if short climb.
Herring-boning. — Short steep bits may be tackled
by a method known as herring-boning. Face the hill
and plant the skis outwards, roughly, at right angles
to each other. Climb the slope straight up, lifting
the skis forward and placing them on their inner edges.
The angle between the skis should remain throughout.
On a steep slope this method is extremely fatiguing,
but it is tolerably easy on a short stretch of ground
which is just too steep to take straight.
Side-stepping. — Hold your skis horizontal and lift
the top ski sideways uphill, placing it again in a
horizontal position. Bring the lower ski up beside it.
Side-stepping is apt to be extremely slow, and a useful
modification, known as half side-stepping, is to lift
the upper ski forwards as well as sideways.
Straight running. — The beginner should practice
this and all subsequent movements with a stick held
in each hand, or with no sticks. If he uses a single
stick he will probably lean on it and employ it as a
prop. If he once gets into the habit of using a stick
40 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
he will never become a first-rate ski-runner. Pluck
is the most important element in straight running.
Nine out of ten backward falls are simply due to funk-
ing pure and simple. The beginner will, therefore,
do well to lean well forward. When he becomes
more expert and no longer falls out of nervousness,
he will very rarely have an unexpected backward
fall, and his balance is then far more likely to be
upset by a sudden change from fast snow into sticky
snow, which will throw him on his face. So that the
advice, ' lean forwards,' though excellent for the be-
ginner, whose falls are nearly all backward falls due
to pure nervousness, is subject to modification for
the expert, who is far more likely to pitch forwards.
The beginner may draw comfort from the fact that,
owing to air pressure, his pace will not increase after
the first few seconds. It is while he is actually gather-
ing way that the balance is most difficult. Thirty
miles an hour is about as fast as any one is likely
to go, except on very steep hills and after a big
Starting a run. — If you are at the top of a hill, you
just take a few forward steps and slide over the edge.
To start a run on steep ground is not so simple. A
favourite but clumsy method is to prop yourself up
with two sticks, point your skis downhill, shove off
with your sticks and start running. A much neater
method, for which I think Caulfeild is responsible, is
the following. Move the skis round so that they point
as far downhill as possible without actually slipping.
Then, if the hill is on your right-hand side, throw your
weight on to your left ski, lifting round the right ski
UPHILL AND STRAIGHT RUNNING 41
until it faces straight downhill, its tip being just in
front of and below the tip of the other ski. Now
throw all your weight on the right foot and lean well
forward downhill. The right ski will begin to slide,
and the left ski, if left to itself, will fall into its natural
position for straight running.
Straight running, normal position. — Hold the skis
together and advance one foot about twelve to
eighteen inches in front of the other. Hold your
knees together, keeping the body as erect as possible,
and try to hold yourself loosely and avoid stiffness,
more especially at the knees.
It is important to keep the skis together in soft snow
or in soft crust.
Single-track position is steadier than the broad-
track position as this lengthens the base of support.
You are very unlikely to fall sideways in ordinary
powder snow, but a sudden change of gradient is
liable to throw you forwards or backwards, as the case
may be. The closer you keep your skis together
and the more elastic you keep your knees the greater
is your power to resist a sudden shock in a fore and
aft direction. On the other hand, if the snow is hard,
the single-track position is not sound. On hard snow
you should keep your skis two or three inches apart,
but you should still try to keep one ski ahead of the
other and to keep your knees bent. In single-track
position it is a good plan to lock your knees, putting
the knee of one leg into the knee-pit of the other.
Many good runners use the single-track position even
when traversing a steep slope. Personally, for
traversing a steep slope, I find it better to keep my
42 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
skis a little apart. In straight running you would
have to adapt the position of your body to the
changes of gradient. You should crouch down if
you are crossing a mound, and straighten up as your
skis run into a dip. Your body should always be at
right-angles to the slope, so that the steeper the slope
the more it is necessary to tilt the body forward.
The most difficult kind of gradient to stand on is
a sudden up-rise following a fast and steep descent,
such as a cup-shaped hollow at the bottom of a steep
slope. You are very liable to be thrown violently
on to your face as the skis are checked by the sudden
up-rise. The Telemark position is perhaps the safest
for such emergencies. If you are not running in
Telemark position you should get your weight on to
the back leg and try to lift your front ski by the toe-
straps. This will help your leading ski to run up
a slope without burying the point of the ski in the
snow. If you are crouching low it is important to
crouch from the knees, and not from the hips. Many
people think that they are crouching when they are
only bending forward from their waist, an awkward
and clumsy position. No matter how low you crouch,
the body should always be upright from the waist to the
top of your head f and the lowering should be done by
bending the knees and not by bending forward from
The Telemark position, — On steep slopes and
on alighting from a jump you should run in the
Telemark position. Your centre of gravity is much
lower in the Telemark, so that you are much
less likely to be upset by sudden changes of gradi-
UPHILL AND STRAIGHT RUNNING 43
ent. Slide the back ski backwards until its point
is about level with the ankle of the other leg.
Throw the weight on to the front foot and bend
the knee of the front leg almost to a right angle.
The front leg from the knee downwards should be at
right-angles to the ski. It is absolutely vital on the
Telemark position to hold the single-track. If the
back ski diverges from the single-track, especially if
the snow is slightly crusted, very nasty and extremely
dangerous falls are likely to result. In order to hold
the single-track both knees should be slightly turned
inwards. The up-turn of the back ski should be
touching the ankle of the leading leg. If you are
using a spring binding you will find the Telemark
position much more difficult to hold than with a
rigid binding, as the back foot comes forward much
too easily, so that it is practically resting on the toes
instead of, as in the case of rigid bindings, on the
ball of the foot. If the gradient changes suddenly
or runs out into the level you should thrust forward
the front ski ; your back knee will almost certainly
bump on to the ski, though you will recover the
normal position in a few seconds. With a spring
binding your back knee is liable to be jerked into the
snow, and if the snow is at all sticky or crusty a very
nasty jar results. If the pace becomes alarming your
tendency will be to let the weight fall back on the
back leg and to bring the back leg forward. In this
case you will collapse on*to the back leg. To guard
against this, as the pace increases, straighten the
back leg, and keep well forward over the front leg.
Above all see that the front knee is well forward.
44 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
While running in Telemark position, you should not
be able to see the instep of your leading foot, for it
should be hidden by the knee.
Many Swiss and Norwegian runners criticize the
Telemark position. Naturally, if one has a perfect
balance it is not necessary to fall into the Telemark
position. At the same time, owing to the lowness of
the centre of gravity, the Telemark position is in-
variably valuable on uneven ground when travelling
at a high speed. It is dangerous and useless on
really hard snow, as it is very difficult to control the
back ski properly and to keep it in line, but in soft
crust or powder snow it is most useful. You should
of course avoid the common fault of running in
Telemark position unless the slope really requires
it. Whenever possible run upright. The Telemark
position is tiring to hold for a long time and should
only be used on difficult country. At the same time,
though it is a bad plan to run habitually in the Tele-
mark position, it is often most useful to fall into the
Telemark for a few yards. You can run down a
slope in a normal position and fall into the Telemark
position if the outrun is very sudden. Personally,
if I am running from a downhill slope into a hollow
with a sharp rise on the other side I always fall into
the Telemark position.
Crouching position. — The alternative to the Tele-
mark, which is less tiring to hold, is the crouching
position. Hold the skis in much the same position
as in the normal position, but instead of keeping them
absolutely together they should be about five or six
inches apart. You should then crouch low down.
UPHILL AND STRAIGHT RUNNING 45
Plenty of runners think they are crouching extremely
low when, as a matter of fact, they are doing nothing
of the kind. You should crouch so low that if you
crouch any further you would sit down backwards on
your skis. You should be able to touch the snow
with your hands. The crouching position is useful
for fast running on hard and rather tricky snow when
the Telemark position is not advisable. This extreme
crouch is ugly, and should be avoided if possible.
Falls. — When you fall you will, as often as not, be
thrown with your head lower down the hill than your
skis. You should then lift your skis round until they
are below you. Place them horizontal to the slope,
hold your sticks horizontally on your uphill side, and
HOW TO SKI
THE SKI-ING SWINGS
THE ideal ski-ing track is a straight line which
coincides with the fall of the slope. For
obvious reasons this ideal is often impossible of
attainment, and even the best runners will often have
to turn and swing, both in order to avoid obstacles
and also in order to control their speed.
It must, however, be understood that ski-ing
swings, unlike skating turns, are not an end in them-
selves. The best method of making a ski-ing swing
happens incidentally to be the most graceful ; for
a graceful movement, on skis or on skates or on any-
thing else, owes its grace to the absence of unneces-
sary effort. A ski-ing swing should be as fast as
possible, as safe as possible, as accurate as possible,
and as effortless as possible. Any ski-ing swing
which conforms to these requirements is a good swing.
The ski-ing swings are utilitarian, and only second-
arily aesthetic. It is because the heavy use of the
stick to help out a swing must involve needless
effort that the use of the stick is to be discouraged.
The beginner should realize the difference between
an uphill swing and a downhill swing.
If you are running across a hill with the slope on
HOW TO SKI 47
your left and you wish to stop, you can stop by means
of an uphill swing. There are various methods of
making an uphill swing. If executed on the side of
a hill they are all alike in one respect. The swing
brings the ski-runner to a stop ; the skis, which were
running at an angle across the slope, begin to turn
uphill, and when the turn is completed the skis are
either horizontal — or more usually facing uphill.
A downhill turn or swing is used to join two
tacks to one another. If a hill is too steep, or covered
with too many obstacles to take straight, it is best
tackled by means of a series of curves. These curves
join two tacks to each other. Before making a
downhill swing to the right the ski-runner will be
travelling with the hill on his right. After making
the downhill turn to the right, he will be travelling
with the hill on his left. ' Downhill turns ' are often
described as 'S' turns, because a series of downhill
turns resembles a series of continuous ' S's.' In a
downhill turn the skis, instead of beginning to turn
up to the hill, turn downwards until they are facing
downhill and then only begin to turn uphill. If you
are running downhill with the hill to your right and
your skis begin to turn to your right you will make
an uphill turn ; if to the left you will make a down-
A turn on the level which brings you to a sudden
stop is also called an uphill turn. The expression
' Stop turn ' might be more accurate. In fact, it is
in some ways preferable to use the term ' linked
turns ' instead of ' downhill turns ' and ' stop turns '
instead of uphill turns.
48 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
SHORT TURNS AND LONG TURNS
A short turn is a turn in which the radius of the
curve is short ; a long turn is a turn in which the
radius of the curve is long. This sounds obvious,
but some people think that a ' long turn ' is a turn
in which a long interval has elapsed since the last
The accompanying diagram (Fig. 2) represents
various turns on the same hill side. The arrow
indicates the direction of the slope. ABCDE is a
series of short, downhill turns. The radius of the
curve in each case is comparatively short, so that
the turn is abrupt.
FGHJK represents two long tacks FG and GH,
joined by a short, downhill turn at G, and two more
long tacks HJ and JK, joined by a short turn at J.
LMNO represents a series of linked or downhill
long turns, the radius of the curve being much longer
in comparison with the turns in ABCDE. XYZ
represents an uphill swing to rest on the side of
HOW TO SKI 49
Many beginners are quite content if they can make
any kind of turn, short or long. Now straight
running is the ideal and turns a regrettable necessity.
The shorter the turn, the more speed is taken off ;
the longer the turn, the quicker the ski-runner will
You should therefore try (i) to make as few turns
as possible, (2) to make these turns as ' long ' as
possible. At the same time it is essential to be able
to make short and abrupt turns.
Naturally, a ' long ' turn is much more difficult
than a short turn, as the speed is much higher through-
The three principal ski-ing turns, or swings, are
the stemming turn, the christiania swing and the
Each of these three turns or swings can be done
either uphill or downhill, i.e. either to stop suddenly
or to link two tacks. Each of these three turns or
swings can be executed either as a long or as a short
Obviously a stop turn (or uphill turn) can be done
either long or short. It is easier to make a long stop
turn than a short stop turn, and as the object of a
stop turn is usually to stop at once, a short turn is
preferable. In the case of linking two tacks, i.e.
downhill turns, the object is not so much to stop, but
to dodge obstacles or to take off speed where straight
running is impossible. But as you will naturally
wish not to take off more speed than you need for
downhill or linked turns, long turns are usually pre-
50 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
In a wood, however, the ability to make short,
abrupt turns is invaluable.
The ski-runner must therefore learn to make long
and short turns. The method in both cases is much
EDGING THE SKIS
The skis have frequently to be edged ; they should
usually be edged so that the line of the leg from the
knee to the foot is at right angles to the blade of the
FIG. 3. — EDGING THE SKI
ski as in Fig. 3 A, and not as in B, which represents
an awkward and strained position of the leg.
It is often necessary to side-slip on skis down the
slope. In order to side-slip it is necessary to hold the
skis nearly flat against the slope ; if, however, they
are held quite flat any slight projection such as a hard
lump of snow will be felt and may upset the balance.
In most swings and turn^ the skis are held in the
' normal edged position ' (Fig. 3 A) in which the leg
is at right angles to the blade of the ski.
INSIDE EDGE AND OUTSIDE EDGE
Inside and outside edge on skis are much the same
as on skates. If a skater stops suddenly by means
HOW TO SKI 51
of a two-foot turn to the right, his right skate will be
on its outside and his left skate on its inside edge.
Exactly the same is the case with a sudden stop
Christiania swing to the right, which in many ways
resembles the ordinary stop turn on skates. The
inside or right ski will be on its outside edge at the
end of the turn and the outside ski on its inside edge.
In Fig. 3 A the ski is on its inside edge. If you are
traversing a slope with the hill on your right, and if
you lean into the slope your right ski will be on its
outside, your left ski on its inside edge.
FUNDAMENTAL THEORY OF ALL STEERED SWINGS
The theory of a steered ski-ing turn is so simple
that it is really remarkable that so many writers
have entirely failed to discover it. Until Caulfeild
wrote his book, no ski-ing writer had really grasped
the obvious fact that skis turn much as a boat turns.
Cut out two pieces of cardboard in the shape of
skis. Place them in the Telemark position (Fig. 4 A) ;
the Stemming position (Fig. 4 B) ; the ' open Chris-
tiania ' position (Fig. 4 C) ; join the pieces of cardboard
with a cross piece to keep them in place and fix two
52 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
little wheels (a pair of buttons do admirably) into
the cardboard skis. Now put your cardboard skis
on any inclined slope, such as a tilted table, and they
will describe respectively perfect Telemarks, Chris-
tianias and Stemming turns.
I spent an amusing hour watching cardboard skis
cut out by Caulfeild describing far more accurate
swings than I have ever accomplished.
It is perfectly obvious that the cardboard skis
placed at a certain angle and kept there by means
of another piece of cardboard fixed across them
cannot run straight down a slope. They must begin
to turn. Two parallel skis will run straight down
a slope ; if they are running across a slope and if
there is another lateral friction to prevent them side-
slipping they will continue to run across the slope
in a straight line. But if they are placed at a certain
angle they must begin to turn.
That, in brief, is the basic principle of all steered
turns. You may, as Caulfeild suggests, regard one
ski as the boat and the other as the rudder. The
steering effect is produced by the relative position
of the two skis. If the two skis are absolutely
parallel there is no steering effect : if they are held
at a certain angle, the steering effect will vary with
the size of the angle.
There is another way of making the skis turn which
does not depend on steering effort. Two skis which
are parallel may be made to turn through a right
angle — or even more — while remaining absolutely
parallel. This can be done by a jerk or by a jump.
If, however, no jerk or jump is employed the skis
HOW TO SKI 53
must be separated, and must be held either at a
divergent or a convergent angle to produce steering
Once this fact is thoroughly grasped, the beginner
will have made a great stride towards mastering the
He will have no excuse for trying to start a turn
by leaning the way he intends to go.
If he was steering a boat and found it necessary
to stop suddenly in order to avoid colliding with
another boat he would pull the rudder round rapidly ;
but he would not expect to get much steering effect
by throwing his weight on one side of the boat, or
by urging the crew to lean heavily over to the side
towards which he wished to turn. He would get his
steering effect out of the rudder.
Similarly wdth a stop Christiania. The steering
effect will be produced by increasing the angle be-
tween the skis — not by leaning inwards.
At the end of a very fast turn it may be necessary
to lean inwards in order to avoid being thrown out-
wards. One's normal tendency to lean inwards is,
however, more than sufficient — save in very sticky
snow — to prevent one being thrown outwards, so
that the beginner at least need not bother con-
sciously to lean in.
In any case this inward lean must never occur
BEFORE THE SWING IS COMPLETED. You should
never lean in to start a turn.
To lean in with a view to starting a swing is fatal.
The ordinary directions for starting a Christiania — i.e.
to lean inwards, are absolutely wrong.
54 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
There are certain analogies between Ski-ing and
Golf. In Golf it is essential to keep your eye on the
ball, which is only another way of saying that it is
essential to keep your head still. You can take your
eye off the ball when the stroke is completed, but not
before. The object of keeping your eye on the ball
is to prevent your head and body coming round
before the ball is struck. In most ski-ing swings,
it is for similar reasons important to keep the head
still and the eye on some fixed point on one of your
skis. In every steered ski-ing turn or swing it is of
vital importance not to try to force the swing by
leaning inwards, or by turning the body. The body
turns as the skis turn : if it turns quicker than the
skis the turn will be a failure. Imagine a line
connecting your two shoulders. This line will be at
right angles to your skis when you are running
straight. In other words, you will be standing
square to your skis. In the Telemark turn, to take
one example, the body should remain absolutely
square with the leading ski throughout the turn. It
should turn with the ski.
The average beginner brings his right shoulder
round when turning to the left so that a line drawn
from shoulder to shoulder is almost in line with the
ski, instead of being at right angles to it.
In order to prove that it is not necessary to turn
your body in the direction you wish to turn when
making a swing, I have done a downhill Telemark to
the left with my body twisted right round to the
right and my eyes looking backwards over my right
shoulder — the complete reverse of the normal position.
HOW TO SKI 55
The real truth being that so long as the body remains
in one fixed position and so long as the skis are held
at the right angle and weighted in the right way,
some sort of a turn is bound to follow.
The analogy with golf lies in the fact that in ski-ing
as in golf it is an excellent thing to keep your eye on
some fixed point. In the stemming turn I advise
the beginner to keep his eye on the point of the outer
ski ; in the Christiania to the left on his left foot ; in
the Telemark to the left on the point of the left ski.
The object of keeping the eye on a fixed point is
twofold. In the first place, it prevents the beginner
looking down the slope. If he keeps his eye on some
fixed point, he is far less likely to notice the terrifying
steepness of the slope. In the second place, keeping
the eye on some fixed point — or rather fixed in rela-
tion to his own body — not, of course, fixed in relation
to the slope for the skis are moving, prevents him
turning his head and his shoulders.
The beginner should make up his mind — whatever
steered swing he is attempting — that the skis are
going to do the job if he gives them a chance. Let
him remember the cardboard skis which perform
perfect swings if left to themselves. Let him try to
imagine that his own two legs are simply a cross board
holding the skis together at a certain angle.
Curiously enough a great deal of this applies even
to jerked swings, and even to a complete jump round.
In the easiest form of jerked Christiania the legs and
skis turn before the shoulders turn, and the head
does not turn before the swing is completed. Even
in the jump round it is fatal to turn the body before
56 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
the skis have turned or to lean in too much. It may
be necessary to lean in very much at the end of the
jump round, but the inward lean should never be
EMPLOYED TO START A TURN.
In all downhill turns, i.e. turns which link one
tack to another, there is a critical moment just as
the skis are pointing downhill. It is this moment
which upsets the beginner. He feels that if he does
not do something drastic his skis will run away and
dash down the slope. And so, of course, he does the
one thing which he should not do.
Instead of leaning boldly forwards and outwards
so as to get his weight well forward on to the ski
which is going to act as a rudder and bring him round,
he leans backwards and he leans inwards, and of
course he falls.
It is no use trying to force a turn. Forcing a turn
is equivalent to ' pressing ' at golf. The parallel may
be completed in that a first-class golfer can allow
himself to press a little, whereas the beginner is
always told not to try to hit the ball but to let the
swing of his body do the work. Similarly at ski-ing,
the beginner should allow the steering effect of his
ski to carry through the turn ; the expert at golf
can ' press ' without disaster, and the expert ski-
runner can ' press/ or, in other words, force a rapid
swing by combining the steering effect of his ski
with a great deal of body jerk or swing ; but if the
beginner tries to jerk a swing he will fail. He must
confine himself to pure steered turns and swings
until he has completely mastered them.
Before describing the turns in detail, let me sum-
HOW TO SKI 57
marize a few general directions which apply to all
steered swings and turns. The beginner might do
worse than copy these out, and even memorize them,
so that he can murmur them gently to himself as he
attempts a turn.
GENERAL DIRECTIONS FOR ALL STEERED TURNS
I. Don't lean the way you want to go to start
II. Don't lean inwards except at the very end of
the turn, and even then it is better not to lean in
consciously. The unconscious inward lean will be
quite enough except in the case of very fast swings
on sticky or crusted snow.
III. ' Keep your eye on the ball.' The exact
point on which to focus your eye will vary with the
IV. Put your skis in the proper position and hold
them at the proper angle till the turn is completed.
Don't let them run together before the turn is com-
V. Don't let your weight come back on to the back
ski before the turn is completed.
VI. In downhill or linked turns or swings, re-
member that the only hope of success is to lean boldly
forward and down the slope as the skis begin to come
VII. Try to imagine that you are turning on the
level. This pleasant fallacy is encouraged by keeping
your eye on some definite point.
VIII. Don't try to force the turn.
58 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
IX. Give your skis a chance. They are only too
anxious to come round if you don't interfere with
them. If you put them at the proper angle, they
must come round unless you thwart them.
Note. — In every case I assume the hill to be on
your left, so that an uphill turn will be a turn
to the left and a downhill turn a turn to the
right. For an uphill turn to the right or a
downhill turn to the left substitute ' left ' for
' right ' in the following pages. Needless to
say, the beginner must not be content until he
can make every turn and swing both to left
and to right. I only describe the turns one
way to save space.
THE STEMMING TURN
The stemming turn is perhaps the most generally
useful of all ski-ing turns, especially for ski-runners
who visit the High Alps where the snow is seldom
deep and powdery. The stemming turn is closely
allied to the Christiania swing, and though expert
runners will use the Christiania far more than the
stemming turn both for uphill and downhill turns,
yet an absolute mastery of the various forms of
stemming turns is a necessary foundation for cross-
The stemming turn is easiest on hard snow which
is not too slippery to check undue side-slip. It
should be practised on the beaten snow of a practice
ground. It is difficult in soft snow and almost
HOW TO SKI 59
impossible in deep, heavy snow or on soft breakable
Stemming. — Find some fairly gradual slope on the
practice ground. Start with your skis horizontal and
the hill on your left. Run across the slope at a gentle
angle and as soon as you are under way begin to stem
with the lower ski.
In order to stem, push out the heel of your lower
foot so that the skis, instead of being parallel, form an
FIG. 5.— AN UPHILL STEMMING TURN
angle. The upper ski should continue to point in
the direction in which you were running before start-
ing to stem ; the lower ski should be nearly horizontal.
The tip of the lower ski should be close to, but an
inch or two in front of, the tip of the upper ski. You
are now in the stemming position.
In order to stem or to reduce your speed, straighten
the lower leg and weight the heel of the lower foot.
Keep your eye on the point of the upper ski.
The more you weight the lower leg and the more
you straighten the lower leg, the greater will be the
braking effect of the lower ski. If this position is
held the lower ski will begin to turn uphill ; both
60 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
skis will come to a stop and you will have accomplished
a slow uphill stemming turn to the left.
As a rule stemming is used — not to stop — but
merely to reduce speed. As your skis begin to slow
down you can once again resume your normal speed
by reducing the weight on the lower ski and weighting
the upper ski which should continue to point down
the slope in the same direction as it was pointing
before you started the turn.
By weighting the upper ski you increase your
speed. By weighting the lower ski you decrease
your speed. It is quite easy to run along the slope
alternately weighting the upper and the lower ski,
and thereby alternately increasing and decreasing
The beginner usually shows great reluctance to
throw enough weight on to the stemming ski. On
steep slopes this can only be done by leaning boldly
outward from the slope. If you try to hug the slope
and push out the stemming ski with a nervous,
pawky action while keeping your weight on the top
ski, the only result will be that your top ski will go
faster than ever.
Just as mountaineers who cross a steep ice-slope
always lean well out from their steps, and do not hug
the slope, so in stemming across a steep slope your
body must be at least vertical, if not slightly leaning
out from the slope. On very steep slopes you will
have to bend the upper leg very considerably in
order to keep the stemming ski horizontal : in fact,
on very steep slopes you may have to lift the heel
of the upper foot and almost sit on the upper ski
HALFWAY THROUGH A STEMMING TURN
HOW TO SKI 61
while keeping as much weight as possible on to the
This is rather uncomfortable, and on such slopes
there are better ways of controlling the speed, which
will be described later : e.g. side-slipping or the
A most important point in stemming is to keep the
points of the skis close to each other, the lower ski
slightly ahead of the upper ski, as in all swings and
turns the skis will tend to run together if you do not
resolutely control this tendency.
See ' GENERAL DIRECTIONS ' on pp. 57-58.
You will find it easier to stop by stemming on a
slope than on the level : on a slope the stemming
action is assisted by the gradient for, in pushing out
the heel of the lower ski and weighting it, you drive
the back part of the lower ski downhill. On the level
you are merely driving it sideways.
To stop quickly by a pure stem on the level is very
difficult and clumsy. It is also difficult — if not im-
possible — to stop on a slope by stemming when
travelling at a high speed.
Stemming is mainly useful for controlling your
speed when travelling at a moderate pace on steepish
slopes. The expert does not often use it, but stem-
ing must thoroughly be mastered, as it is the key to
other turns and swings.
Incidentally, it is of very great value when ski-ing
on a rope, being in fact the only safe method whereby
the second man on the rope can prevent himself over-
running the leader.
62 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
SNOW-PLOUGHING OR DOUBLE STEMMING
Stemming is useful when you are running across
a hill ; snow-ploughing or double stemming is useful
where you have a limited space, such as a narrow
stretch of ground between trees.
The skis are placed in a V-shaped position, with the
vertex of the ' V ' pointing downhill. The ski-
runner faces directly downhill, so that his skis are in
a position which an engineer would describe as
' stable equilibrium/
Push your legs wide apart, and keep your knees
rigidly unbent. You should thrust out the heels of
both your feet and both skis should be on their inner
edges, with the weight distributed equally on both
skis. The tips of the skis should nearly but not
quite touch each other, and the angle between the
skis should be as wide as possible. Lean well for-
ward. The more you edge your skis and the wider
the angle between the skis, the greater will be the
braking or stemming power.
Snow-ploughing is mainly useful on steep roads
and on narrow stretches of snow. It is difficult in
deep soft snow, though easy enough in shallow soft
snow or on hard snow. It is, of course, quite im-
possible to assume the snow-plough position when
Snow-ploughing is seldom used by an expert, but
it is a most important manoeuvre to master, as it is
the key to the stemming turn. You should practise it
until you can regulate your speed to a nicety on
HOW TO SKI 63
fairly steep slopes by alternately increasing and de-
creasing the angle between the skis.
Failure to hold the snow-plough position is usually
due to a failure to keep the knees rigid ; the moment
you relax your knees the skis tend to run together.
Other common faults are letting the ski points cross
in front, failing to lean forward and letting one ski
lead. Both skis should be on a level with their ski
points close together.
DOWNHILL STEMMING TURN
The best way to learn the downhill stemming turn
is to master the snow-plough. Then run down a
moderate hill in the snow-plough position and
suddenly throw most of your weight on to the right
ski. You will immediately begin to turn slowly to
the left ; the right ski will gradually begin to turn
uphill and as it does so the left ski can be brought
It is rather harder to start a downhill stemming
turn from a traverse, but as this is the principal
use of stemming, and, perhaps, the most generally
useful ski-ing turn, it must, of course, be thoroughly
Find some fairly gentle slope. The practice ground
is best, as the snow is presumably beaten down. Run
across this slope with the hill on your left in the
normal position for traversing, with both skis to-
gether. Now thrust out the heel of your top foot
until the skis make a fairly wide ■ V. J The points of
the skis should be close together but not quite touch-
64 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
ing. The lower ski will be in line with its original
direction. In fact the position is much the same as
for ordinary stemming — see above— excepting that
you are stemming with the top ski instead of the
Get most of your weight on to the top ski, and
thrust out the heel of your left (top) leg. The top
left ski should be on its inside edge ; the lower ski
flat or slightly on its inside edge.
The effect of stemming with the left ski will be
that your left ski will begin to turn downhill.
You will assume a position closely resembling the
normal snow-plough position, with the vertex of the
' V ' almost pointing downhill but with the point of
the right ski slightly leading. It is vitally important
to keep your legs stiff and your knees unbent, and to lean
boldly forward as your skis come round. When you
are facing downhill throw all your weight on to the
heel of the left ski, lean boldly forward and outwards,
and your left ski will come sharply round. As it
does so — but not before — the right ski must be made
to follow round and to close up, relaxing the knees
and bringing the skis parallel once again. This
should not be done till the turn is nearly com-
Beginners spoil their turns by letting their knees
bend — the most common fault — before the turn is
completed. This relaxes the stemming position, so
that the skis close up too soon and tend to run straight
down the slope. Also they do not weight the outer
ski sufficiently, and they hang back as the skis begin
to come round instead of leaning boldly forward.
HOW TO SKI 65
Practise this till you can make a downhill stemming
turn to right and to left.
See also ' general directions/ pp. 57-58.
The great difficulty in the ordinary stemming turn
is the change of edge that the inside ski must ac-
complish. If you are traversing with the hill on
FIG. 6.— DOWNHILL STEMMING TURN
your left, your left ski is on its outside, the right
ski on its inside edge. When the downhill stem-
ming turn is completed the hill will be on your
right, your right ski will be on its outside, and your,
left ski on its inside edge. In other words, both
skis will have changed edges. Now there is no
difficulty about the left ski, for you put it on its
inside edge to start the turn, but the right ski has to
66 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
make this change of edge from inside to outside at
the most critical part of the turn, just before the
turn is completed. The change of edge has to be
made at exactly the right moment, as otherwise the
ski is very likely to catch on its edge and refuse to
come round at all.
There is a simple method of avoiding this difficulty,
which consists in getting rid of the inside ski, or—
as Caulfeild puts it — making this change of edge in
the air. This manoeuvre is known by the horrid
name of ' Stemmiania ' which is really a misnomer,
for the ' Stemmiania ' can only mean a mixture of
stemming turn and Christiania — better known as the
' Closed Christiania/ described in its proper place.
I prefer to use the more logical term ' Lifted Stem.'
The ' lifted stem,' which has really superseded the
pure stemming turn among good runners, is best
learned — like the stemming turn — by way of the
Run downhill in the snow-plough position. Lean
well forward, and see that your legs are rigid and the
knees unbent. Now throw all your weight on to
the right heel. This should be done with a steady
thrust — not a timid jerky push. As you give this
thrust, lift the left ski off the ground. The thrust
on the right heel will drive the back part of the ski
down the slope, all the more quickly because the
left ski does not check the movement since it is clear
of the snow. When the right ski is horizontal, or
nearly horizontal, the left ski can be brought smartly
down, parallel with the right ski.
When you can stop in this way from a snow-plough
HOW TO SKI 67
position, either to left and right, you can attempt the
same manoeuvre from a traverse ; in other words, you
can attempt a downhill lifted stem — a most invalu-
Run across a moderate slope (hill on your left) bend-
ing the left ankle inwards. Push the heel of your left
ski outwards until you have assumed a pronounced
stemming position. The point of the left ski should
be close to the point of the right ski, but slightly ahead
of it. The right ski should be flat, if anything slightly
on its inner edge but only very slightly. As the skis
begin to turn downhill, push the heels of your feet
even wider apart. Throw your weight forwards and
outwards on the outer ski, push off from the inner
ski, and throw your weight boldly on to the left heel
at the moment when you are facing downhill. As
you do this, lift the right ski clear of the snow and
bring it round quickly, putting it down parallel with
the left ski, which by then should be horizontal or
nearly so. This is a double movement, but you should
not be content until you can make the turn really
fast, so that the double movement of throwing the
weight on to the outer ski and lifting the inner ski
is practically simultaneous.
The lifted stem can also be used as a very effective
method of making a stop turn or uphill turn. It is
one of the best methods of stopping quickly on the
level. Everything depends on thrusting out boldly
from the left leg and lifting the left leg smartly and
bringing it down quickly parallel with the right ski.
68 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
Caulfeild defines a Christiania as any swing 'in
which the outer ski does not lead and the skis are not
held convergently/ i.e. the skis may be either parallel
or divergent, and either held level or with the inner
There is, however, a very useful form of the Chris-
tiania in which the skis are held convergently ; the
swing being started by an embryo stem, so that the
above definition hardly holds water. To quote
Kipling with due alteration :
' There are nine and ninety things
Which are nicknamed Christi swings
And every single one of them is right/
If I had to volunteer a definition, I should define a
Christiania as any swing in which the skis were
either parallel or in which the angle between the skis
was very slight, and in which the feet were not
widely separated (as in the Telemark).
There are really three main types of Christiania,
the Open Christiania, the Closed Christiania, and the
Jerked Christiania. There are also numberless com-
binations and modifications, such as the Jerked Chris-
tiania, started by a slight stem, or the Open Chris-
tiania, helped out with a jerk. I propose to describe
these in turn.
Side-Slipping. — This useful manoeuvre is really a
form of Christiania. It should be mastered before
HOW TO SKI 69
the more difficult types of Christi. are attempted.
It is a very neat and effective method of controlling
one's speed on a steep slope, far neater and more
effective than stemming.
In order to side-slip, start from rest with your skis
horizontal and separated by about six inches or a
foot. Flatten them against the slope, and lean well
outwards from the hill. If the slope is composed
of beaten or hard snow — such as is common on the
practice ground — you will start side-slipping down
the slope. If you want to check the rate at which
you are side-slipping, you need only edge your skis
into the slope. If you want to stop suddenly, give
a small jump, and edge your skis as you come
down. It is not necessary to leave the ground ; the
jumping motion is sufficient.
The beginner gets nervous as he begins to side-
slip and tries to arrest himself by leaning in to the
slope, with the result that his skis slip away from
under him. The only way to check side-slipping is
to lean out and edge the skis. With a little practice
the instinctive dislike to the side-slipping sensation
can be overcome and you will soon be able to de-
scend by side-slipping steep, narrow stretches of
ground where there is not enough space in which
to turn. This kind of side-slipping is very useful
indeed, and is, I think, far safer and far steadier and
far easier than the so-called Telemark stem, a man-,
oeuvre which seems to me radically unsound.
So far I have described side-slipping from rest,
straight down the slope.
A much more generally useful manoeuvre is to
70 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
check your speed when you are traversing a steep
hill at a fairly steep gradient.
The hill, we will suppose, is on your left.
In order to check your speed you have only to
flatten your skis and throw all your weight on to
the heels of your skis ; this will have the effect of
making the points of your skis turn uphill. You
must be very careful to lean outwards as you throw
your weight on to the heels of your skis, and not
to lean inwards towards the slope.
If you want to come to rest suddenly you need
only weight your heels and edge your skis in to the
slope, but if you want to combine checking your
speed with side-slipping you will flatten your skis
against the slope— not quite flat (see page 69) but
almost flat. This will start a side-slip.
If the slope is fairly narrow and there is not much
room to turn you can run down at a fairly steep angle,
checking your speed by weighting your heels and
side-slipping for some distance, after which you can
again weight your toes and run down another section
before again side-slipping.
It is possible to run steep narrow slopes very fast
by running them in a succession of steep tacks varied
This kind of side-slipping is really a form of Chris-
tiania, and if the side-slip is reduced to a minimum
by edging the skis at once, as soon as you weight the
heels you will really execute an uphill Christiania.
As in all the turns the secret of success is to lean
outwards from the slope, not to attempt to force
the manoeuvre by leaning inwards, and not to hang
HOW TO SKI 71
back. Lean outwards, lean forwards, weight your
heels, and you will have no difficulty.
THE OPEN CHRISTIANIA
The Christiania started by side-slipping and
weighting the heels is useful on a steep slope, but
it is useless on the level, for it owes its value to the
ease with which the heels of the skis can be driven
FIG. 7.— UPHILL CHRISTIANIA
downhill (and the points accordingly driven uphill)
while traversing a steep slope. On the level there
is no slope to help out the swing.
The Open Christiania, here described, can be done
either on the level on or a hillside.
The hill is on your left. Position, normal for tra-
versing. Weight equally divided between both skis,
left ski about a foot in advance.
To start the swing, bend the left knee, and weight
the left heel. Most of the weight should be on the
left foot, but some weight should be on the right foot,
72 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
for the right ski is to act as the rudder, and the rudder
can have no effect if it is out of the water, i.e. if the
rudder ski is completely unweighted (see page 56).
The right ski, slightly weighted, should then be slid
back a few inches, and the toe of the right foot
pushed out until the skis form a divergent angle, an
' inverse ' stem. Bend both knees and ankles out-
wards until you feel that you are almost bow-legged.
The divergent position of the skis will produce steer-
ing effect ; it is only necessary to hold this position,
emphasizing the bow-legged position, bending both
knees outwards, and keeping most — but not all— the
weight on the front (left ski) for the skis to begin to
turn uphill to the left.
When the turn is fairly under way — but not before
— the skis should be brought smartly together, the
weight should be distributed equally between the two
skis and should be on the heels of the two feet, and
the two skis may now be edged into the slope.
The difficulty is to keep some weight on the back
ski to start the turn, but to avoid weighting the back
ski too much till the turn is all but completed, other-
wise it is very difficult to hold the proper divergent
In order to start the turn the outer ski must be
flattened against the snow ; this is done auto-
matically if you bend out your knees — the bow-
legged position — as described. If the outer ski, in
addition to being unduly weighted, is also edged,
instead of flattened, while the turn is started, the
ski will run apart and a very ugly fall will result.
Lean forwards ; lean outwards. Keep your eye
HOW TO SKI 73
resolutely fixed on your left foot. Keep the left
leg straight from the knee downwards ; it is a good
plan to try to hide as much of your foot as possible
with your knee, so that while keeping your eye re-
solutely on your left toe, you can, at the same time,
see your knee and not see your instep. Don't try
to force the swing ; your skis will bring you round if
you let them without any body action. Keep your
right shoulder back and trust to the steering action
of the ski. Don't be content till you can stop by an
uphill Christiania to the right as well as to the left.
See ' GENERAL DIRECTIONS,' pp. 57-58.
A small point must be mentioned. I have de-
scribed an uphill swing to the left, started from a
traverse with the hill on your left. If you start an
uphill swing from a direct descent — a much more
difficult matter — both skis will be flat, whereas when
starting a swing from a traverse the inner ski will be
on its outside edge — its correct edge for this swing.
From a direct descent it is necessary to turn the left
ski on to its outside edge before starting the swing.
The right ski will be flat, and must be kept flat as the
skis come round, which can only be done by the bow-
legged position — both knees and ankles bent out-
wards — already described.
THE OPEN CHRISTIANIA I DOWNHILL
So far I have described an uphill swing to rest from
a traverse. It is of course possible to make downhill
or linked Christianias by the same method.
74 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
The hill is on your left, and you wish to make a
downhill Christi., so that at the end of your swing the
hill will be on your right. Slide the left ski a few
inches to the rear. Turn it outwards so that your
skis are slightly divergent, an inverse stem. Weight
the toe of your right foot. A little weight should be
on the left foot to start the turn, but most of the weight
should be on the right foot. You will begin to turn
downhill. Bow your legs, turning your knees and
ankles outwards, so as to keep the same divergent
angle throughout, the weight on the toe rather than
the heel of the right ski. The knee of the right foot
— as before — should be well bent so that the leg
from the knee downwards is at right angles to the
skis. Keep your eye, as before, on the toe of the
leading ski — in this case the right ski.
When the turn is half completed, i.e. when you
are facing downhill, shift the weight from the toe to
the heel of the right foot. This will tend to drive the
back of your right ski down, and the toe of your
right ski uphill. The swing can now be finished as
an ordinary uphill Christiania to the right. At the
end of the turn, but not before, the weight can be
thrown equally on to the heels of both feet ; both
skis can be edged into the slope and brought smartly
Any attempt to bring them together too soon will
result in the turn stopping half way through and the
skis running straight downhill.
On the other hand, if you keep too much weight on
the outside ski (left) your skis will tend to run apart.
Many people find it easier to learn the downhill
HOW TO SKI 75
Christiania if they crouch low to start the
The reader will remember that in the case of a
downhill stemming turn to the right one of the main
difficulties in the turn was to effect the change of
edge of the inner (right) ski, whereas the outer (left)
ski was put on its inside edge to start the turn and
finished on its inside edge.
There is a similar difficulty in the case of a down-
hill Christiania. Where the downhill turn is done to
the right, the right ski is flattened against the snow,
or turned a little on its outside edge to start the
movement and when the turn is completed it ends
on its outside edge, so that there is no difficulty in
the edging of the right ski, just as in the stemming
downhill turn to the right there was no difficulty in
edging the left ski. But in the case of the downhill
Christi. to the left the outside or left ski starts flat,
or slightly on its outside edge, and finishes on its
inside edge, just as in the stemming turn the inside
or right ski starts on its inside, and finishes on its out-
side edge. One of the main difficulties in the open
downhill Christi. is this change of edge of the outer
ski, which has to be effected while the turn is in pro-
gress. If it is not done neatly and at the right
moment the skis will run apart. If it is done too
soon the inside ski will not come round.
On rough, bumpy snow it is difficult to insure
against the skis running apart, which results in
nasty falls, so that I, for one, far prefer to make
downhill Christianias by means of the jerked method
or the ' Closti/ described below, both of which seem
76 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
to me safer turns for downhill Christis than the open
At the same time the open swing must be learned ;
it is specially useful for long, open, fast sweeping
curves on glacier snow.
See also ' general directions,' pp. 57-58.
THE CLOSED CHRISTIANIA
The open Christi. is started by separating the points
of the skis, i.e. by divergent stemming. The Closed
Christiania — or to give it its more usual and handier
name — the ' Closti ' is started by an embryo stem,
i.e. by bringing the points of the skis together and
separating the heels.
A turn which begins as an ordinary stemming turn
and which ends as a Christiania is a very useful com-
pound turn : it is sometimes called a ' Stemmiania '
- — a horrible portmanteau word. The ' Stemmiania '
is really a ' Closti/ in which the stemming action is
pronounced. A ' Closti ' starts with an embryo
stem, but the less pronounced this stemming action
appears, the quicker and neater will be the swing.
The best way to learn the * Closti ' is to practise
ordinary stemming turns, but the moment you have
stemmed enough to make your skis point downhill
you should finish with an ordinary uphill Christiania,
bringing the skis smartly together and weighting the
heels. This will give you the feeling of ending a
turn, which begins as a stem, with a Christiania.
When you can make downhill turns in which the
Christiania finish is neat and rapid, you can then
HOW TO SKI 77
begin to think of eliminating most of the original
This, I think, is best done by means of the lifted
stem which has been fully described on page 66.
The lifted stem is a most valuable manoeuvre.
Though the side-slipping or the open Christiania is
the best method of making a rapid stop turn (uphill)
on the side of a slope, the lifted stem is the quickest
and sharpest method of stopping within a small
compass on the level, with the exception of the jerked
Christiania. On certain kinds of snow the lifted
stem is far and away the best method of stopping
quickly on the level.
By the time you can make short, quick and neat
lifted stems either to stop or to link two tacks (a
downhill turn) you can begin to practise the ' Closti.'
In order to transform a ' lifted stem ' into a ' Closti '
all that is necessary is to keep your skis on the ground,
instead of lifting the inside ski. This sounds rather
paradoxical. The beginner may well exclaim • You
tell me that the best method of making a stemming
turn is to get rid of the inside ski by lifting it, and
now you want me to learn to keep the derned thing
on the ground after I have spent weary hours in
learning to lift it.' The explanation for this cap-
ricious advice is as follows :- —
The beginner who can make a decent stemming
turn by the ordinary method will certainly find the
lifted stem neater and easier. On certain kinds of
snow the lifted stem is easier than any other kind of
turn, for the lifted stem is always possible and the
Closti or Christiania is often very difficult. But one
78 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
of the main reasons for mastering the lifted stem is
that it involves a little unconscious swing or jerk
which is useful in the ' Closti/ and which adds a new
element differentiating the lifted stem from pure
steered turns, such as the pure stemming turn or the
open Christiania. The mere act of lifting the in-
side ski and throwing all the weight on to the heels
of the outside ski forces you to give a certain swing
which helps the movement out. I said nothing about
this while describing the lifted stem, for the very good
reason that if the beginner consciously tries to swing
or jerk he will certainly fall. So too with the ' Closti ' —
a good fast ' Closti ' cannot be carried through without
swing and without a certain suspicion of the jerked
Christiania, but the moment you tell anybody to jerk a
turn he is sure to make a horrible mess of the business.
Make certain of your lifted stem so that you can
make fast turns — uphill or downhill — and to right
and left, and then try to preserve the motion and feel
of a lifted stem while skimming the snow with the
inside ski. In other words, instead of lifting the in-
side ski, take most of your weight off it, but just
keep it on the ground.
If you have got the feel of the lifted stem into your
bones, you will have no difficulty in keeping the inner
ski on the ground while preserving the speed and
movement of a lifted stem. In all ' Clostis ' the
inside ski though skimming the surface of the snow
is practically unweighted. The only reason for not
lifting it is that the turn is smoother, and the slight
jerkiness and braking effect produced by bringing
the inside ski back on to the ground is avoided.
HOW TO SKI 79
THE JERKED CHRISTIANIA
There are numberless ways of making a jerked
Christiania, which resemble each other only in the
fact that this turn is carried through with the skis
parallel. Every other turn and swing is started by
holding the skis at an angle in order to produce the
needful steering effect.
The jerked Christiania is not a steered turn ; the
skis are jerked round and not steered round.
The easiest way to learn a jerked Christiania is
first to master the ' Jump turn ' which will be de-
scribed on pp. 92-94.
By the time you can make good jump turns,
either to stop or to join two tacks to each other, you
will have mastered the groundwork of a jerked Chris-
In order to make a jerked Christiania you should
try to jump round with as small a jump as possible.
All your earliest attempts at jumping round will be
cumbrous affairs, in which the skis are lifted a con-
siderable height above the snow. Go on practising
until you can jump round only just clearing the
snow. If the slope is steep you will of course have
to get the heels of your skis clear of the snow if you
are making a ' downhill ' jump round, but by leaning
very well forward you can keep the main part of
your skis close to the snow.
Eventually you will be able to ' jump round ' with-
out really jumping at all. In other words, you will
start the movement with an embryo jump, and the
80 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
actual jump will be so far suppressed that in reality
your skis will not leave the snow. The jumping
movement will take enough weight off the skis to
help them to come round quickly. In fact, on easy
snow all that is necessary is to jump from the toes,
simultaneously thrusting out the heels.
Unlike steered turns, which can be analysed and
described in detail and which involve no knack and
which anybody should be able to do after an hour's
practice at a slow speed, the jerked Christiania in-
volves a distinct knack and a good balance.
It is well worth learning, as it is a very fast and
very safe turn.
SUMMARY OF THE CHRISTIANIA SWINGS
The reader may decide that a swing which is so
difficult to describe, and which can be done in so
many ways, must be a very difficult manoeuvre.
This is not the case. Most runners soon find some
form of Christiania to suit them. It is as well to
learn all three forms, but the man in a hurry will have
no difficulty in mastering the type of Christiania that
comes most useful to him. Most good runners use
a swing that is a combination of various styles.
Captain Evans, a friend of mine, whose open Chris-
tianias are at least as neat and as fast as those of any
other English runner, makes his Christianias by a
method which is in such flat contradiction to ac-
cepted theories that I would not dare to describe it
for fear of leading the reader astray, and for myself
I use a very useful bastard turn which starts as a
HOW TO SKI 81
* Closti * and which is carried through by a jerk.
The ' jerked Closti ' is, in my opinion, the safest,
fastest and neatest method of making a stop swing
or a downhill swing that I know. I use it ten times
for every time I use the Telemark. In anything but
deep, soft snow or soft, breakable crust it is at least
as effective as any other swing.
I strongly advise the beginner to practise his
swings in the following order. Let him begin with
the pure stemming turn and then proceed to the
lifted stem. For stopping on a slope or controlling
his speed he cannot learn the side-slipping Chris-
tiania too early. By the time he can make downhill
lifted stems at a good speed and with considerable
certainty he should master the ' Closti/ and if he
likes at the same time to master jumping round, he
can then begin to work a little jerk into his swings.
When he can make fast Clostis or jerked Christianias,
he can then experiment with the Open downhill
Of course he will have learned the Telemark long
before he has mastered all the fine points of the Chris-
tianias. In fact, the proper order for learning the
swings is something like this : Pure Stem, Side-
slipping, Christiania, Telemark, Lifted Stem, Closti,
Open Christiania, Jump round, Jerked Christiania.
By the time he can jerk his Christianias with suc-
cess nine times out of ten he is by way of being a fair
82 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
THE TELEMARK SWING
Stemming and Christianias are easy on hard snow,
or on hard snow covered by a shallow layer of soft
snow. They are difficult in deep, soft snow, and im-
possible on breakable crust. Fortunately a Telemark
can usually be used if the other swings are out of the
To learn the Telemark, find some northern slope
where the snow is powdery and not too shallow. The
beaten snow of the practice ground is excellent for
Christianias, but useless for Telemarks.
Having found a suitable slope — about twenty
degrees steep — run across this slope in normal posi-
tion. Assuming that you wish to make an uphill
swing to the left, the slope will be on your left-hand
Preparation for the swing. — Fall into the Telemark
position with the lower foot leading. The right leg
should be bent at the knee and from the knee down-
wards should be perpendicular to the ski. The left
knee should be elastic and, of course, not so much
bent as the front knee. The left heel should be
raised, and the point of the back ski should be level
with the right ankle. Run in this position for a few
feet before beginning to turn, so as to get the feel of
the Telemark position. (Of course when you are
expert, the two movements — dropping into Telemark
HOW TO SKI 83
position and making the swing should be almost
The swing. — Thrust out the right heel so that the
skis assume a convergent position as shown in Fig.
8, slightly flattening the right ski against the slope.
The only difference between this and the stemming
position is that in the latter the points of the skis are
close together, in the former the inside ski is well to
FIG. 8.— UPHILL TELEMARK
the rear and the front ski crosses in front of the point
of the back ski.
As you thrust out the heel of the right foot, at the
same time flattening the right ski you will at once
begin to swing round to the slope. You have only to
hold this position firmly to complete the turn.
As in all steered swings or turns, the steering
ction is produced by the angle between the ski and
ot by body movement. Any attempt to force the_
lrn by leaning in will be fatal. You will instinc-
vely lean in at the end of the turn, and save at very
xdgh speeds it is not necessary to lean in consciously.
Even at high speeds the inward lean must not be
84 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
used to start the turn, and must not be brought into
play before the turn is completed.
It is a useful tip to keep your eye firmly fixed on the
point of the back ski. This prevents you trying to
force the turn by leaning in. You must also be
careful not to poke forward the leading ski, but
to keep your leg from the knee down perpendicular
to the ski; this is vital. If you poke forward the
leading ski, or if you allow the back ski to slide back
too far, the turn will miscarry or your skis will cross
behind. It is a good plan to hold the up-turn of the
back ski pressed against the ankle of the right foot.
This prevents the ski sliding back too far or coming
forward suddenly. It is vital to keep the skis in the
same relative position until the turn is completed.
Beginners get nervous and bring up the back ski with
a rush before the turn is completed, or they throw
their weight on the back ski, or they lose the angle
between the skis and let the skis run parallel.
See also ' general directions/ pp. 57-58.
A downhill Telemark to the right is made as
follows : —
The slope will be on your left as you start the swing,
and on your right when you finish the swing.
To start the swing, fall into the Telemark position
with the top foot leading. (To make an uphill swing you
fall into Telemark position with the lower foot leading.)
Your upper foot — in this case the left — goes
through much the same movements as the lower foot
HOW TO SKI
in the case of an uphill swing. The knee of the upper
foot is bent, the leg is perpendicular to the skis
from the knee downwards, the upper ski is placed on
its inside edge and the heel of your upper foot is
thrust outwards. (See Fig. 9.)
FIG. 9.— DOWNHILL TELEMARK
In order to start the swing it is necessary to keep
a little weight on the back ski. In all steered swings
the weight cannot be entirely on one ski, either the
leading or the back ski, as in this case no steering
effect will be produced. In the case of a downhill
Telemark more weight must be kept on the back ski
86 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
to start the swing than in the case of an uphill Tele-
The swing is started, as explained, much as the
uphill swing is started, the only difference being that
you lead with the top foot in the case of a downhill,
and with the bottom foot in the case of the uphill
The leading ski in this case is put on its inside
edge. In both cases the heel of the foot on the
leading ski is thrust boldly out. In both cases the
eye is kept firmly fixed on the point of the back ski
throughout the turn (most important), and the up-
turn of the back ski is kept pressed against the
ankle of the leading foot.
Keep a little weight on the back ski to start the
swing, and you will find — if you observe the above
directions — that the ski will immediately begin to
turn downhill. The moment that the leading ski (in
this case the left ski) is pointing downhill you can
transfer all your weight to it, throwing your weight
on to the heel of your left foot. At the same moment
you must be careful not to hang back, and you must
lean out down the slope rather than in to the slope.
This will bring you round, the point of your leading
ski will turn uphill and your back ski will follow the
leading ski round the moment the weight is taken
Thus the key to the downhill Telemark is to weight
the back ski a little to start the turn, and to throw
the weight boldly on to the leading ski the moment
the leading ski is pointing downhill, and on to the
heel of the leading foot.
HALFWAY THROUGH A DOWNHILL TELKMARK
HOW TO SKI 87
Everything that has been said of the uphill Tele-
mark applies equally to the downhill Telemark. It
is even more important in the downhill Telemark
not to poke your ski forward or to let the back ski
slide back too far, as otherwise your skis will cross, and
crossed skis at the end of a downhill Telemark may
produce a dangerous fall. (It is, of course, easier to
cross behind if you are using short skis, but if you
adopt the plan I have suggested, keeping the up-turn
of the back ski tucked into the ankle of the leading
foot you will never cross. I have crossed behind
often while using the longest pair of skis that I possess
(2*36) and I have Telemarked again and again on
short summer skis without crossing. Crossing is the
result of poking forward the leading ski and failing
to keep the front leg at right angles to the ski from
the knee downwards.)
For the rest the ' general directions,' pp. 57-58,
apply to the downhill Telemark as to all steered
turns. I hope the reader will not get bored with
constant references to these pages. He might do far
worse than memorize these ' general directions '
and repeat them to himself every time he tries an
There are many small points about the Telemark
which are worth noting.
If you wish to make a short, abrupt Telemark you
will keep your weight well back on the back leg, and
you will increase the angle between the skis, giving
a much more forceful lunge outwards with the heel
of your leading foot. Your weight must be almost
88 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
entirely on the back ski until the leading ski has come
well round, when you can transfer your weight to
the leading ski, throwing it on the heel of your leading
leg. The more you weight the heel and the more
you lean forward and outwards from the slope, the
more abrupt will be your turn. It is possible to make
downhill Telemarks within the breadth of six or
On the other hand, for a long sweeping Telemark
you will only weight your back foot to start the
swing, and will immediately transfer your weight to
the leading foot the moment the swing is started.
The quicker you take your weight off the back ski,
and the less you thrust out the heel of the leading
foot and the smaller the angle between the skis, the
longer and faster will be the swing.
In good powder snow for a fast and moderately
long Telemark it is only necessary to weight the
back ski for a second to start the turn, and it is
only necessary to apply very moderate pressure to
the heel of the leading foot. The mere edging-in of
the leading ski suffices to start the turn.
In soft, breakable crust, on the other hand, the
turn must be carried through very accurately. In
powder snow one can Telemark in various undefined
ways, but in crust, accuracy and care are necessary.
It is essential in difficult snow to keep the knee of
the leading leg well forward.
If the breakable crust is very resistant there will
be a difficult moment before the leading ski bites into
the crust, and if you lose your nerve it will skid over
the crust instead of cutting through it. But if you
HOW TO SKI 89
weight the leading heel boldly and keep your lead-
ing knee well over your foot, the leading ski will
suddenly sheer through the crust and you will come
round at once.
Linked Telemarks in crust are a very fine sensation,
but the swing is not exactly easy. The power to do
Telemarks in crust is most useful for ski-ing in the
late spring just about twilight.
It is possible to do Telemarks on hard crust or on
crust superficially softened. There is not much
object, however, in doing Telemarks on a surface
which is admirably suited to ' Clostis ' or Chris-
tianias. Still they are a useful exercise for the
balance. On slippery crust, or crust covered by a
shallow layer of soft snow the main difficulty is to
control the leading ski and to prevent it side-slipping
as you finish the swing. To insure an even finish,
the knee should be pressed well inwards, and you
should try to feel the toe-straps on the leading ski.
Press your toes up against the toe-straps and thrust
the heel of the foot outwards. This gives a peculiar
feeling of grinding the inside edge of the ski into the
On very slippery snow you should straighten up
rather sooner than in soft snow. But Telemarks on
hard crust, or crust covered with shallow snow,
though an amusing exercise, may be left to experts.
The beginner can be well content if he can execute
Telemarks in the snow which suits them, soft, deep
powder snow or soft, breakable crust. On hard crust
he need not bother to master any other swings but
the Stemming, Christiania and ' Closti ' swings.
90 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
Christianias in deep soft snow and Telemarks on
crust serve no useful object.
The reader may perhaps notice that the method
I recommend for making a downhill or linked Tele-
mark differs from those printed in most text-books.
Most writers, and nearly all ski teachers, insist that
in the Telemark the essential thing is to get all the
weight on to the front ski.
This is a curious mistake.
Fig. 10 represents the skis held in the Telemark
position prior to making a downhill swing to the left.
We will suppose that all the weight is on the
leading ski. The snow is assumed to be soft and
powdery with very little side-slip. It is obvious that
if the leading ski (A) is weighted and if the back ski
(B) is absolutely unweighted, A will simply run across
the slope in the direction of the dotted line. A will
be in the position of a boat in which the rudder
is entirely out of the water, for B is the rudder,
as explained above, and if B is absolutely un-
weighted, B can exercise no effect of any kind, still
less any steering effect. The only way to make A
turn is to weight both A and B, so as to produce the
steering effect by the divergent angle between A and
B, just as steering effect is produced in a boat by the
divergent angle between the boat and the rudder.
If the rudder was out of the water, it would obviously
be useless. The bad advice ' Get all your weight on
to the leading ski ' is usually neutralized because the
beginner is told to thrust out his leading heel. Now
it is quite impossible to thrust out your leading heel
HOW TO SKI 91
without weighting the back foot. Stand up against
a wall and turn your foot so that the heel of one foot
is against the wall and try to thrust at the wall with
the heel of this foot. The more you thrust the more
weight will come on to your back foot. The same
is true of the Telemark swing. The more you thrust
out the heel of the leading foot, the more weight will
come on to your back ski. It is, however, of vital
importance to remember that weighting the back ski
does not mean hanging back, leaning on the back
ski and poking the front foot forward. For this
reason it is dangerous for a beginner to think too
much about weighting the back ski. If he keeps his
front knee forward, hiding the instep of his leading
foot, and if he thrusts out the heel of his leading foot,
he will almost always succeed.
It is impossible to start a downhill swing without
some weight on the back ski, but the moment the
92 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
swing is fairly under way, the weight can be trans-
ferred to the leading foot.
Once you have mastered the stemming turn, the
Christiania or Closti, and the Telemark, you will be
able to make turns either on hard snow or in soft
snow, or even in soft, breakable crust. You will,
however, occasionally meet with snow the surface
of which is covered by a crust which breaks under
the skis, but which is not soft enough to enable you
to force a Telemark. In snow such as this the quick-
est and neatest method of stopping or turning is to
jump round. You need not wait until you have
found breakable crust before practising the jump
round ; it can be practised on the practice ground or
on any snow which is not soft and clinging. It is
best to begin with quite small jumps. Run across
a slope with the hill on your right and your skis
close together. The jump differs from an ordinary
jump in that it must be made with both feet at
once. The knees must be kept close together and
the skis parallel, and the jump must be made simul-
taneously with both feet, in this differing essen-
tially from an ordinary high-jump on foot. You
should, of course, jump round so that your skis on
alighting are horizontal or pointing uphill. If you
begin from a gentle traverse you will, of course, only
have to jump round through a very small angle in
order to stop dead. You should gradually go on
increasing the angle of your jump until you can stop
HOW TO SKI 93
with a jump when you are running straight downhill.
In this case your skis will be pointing down the slope
before you jump, and should be horizontal when your
jump is completed, and your skis will therefore have
turned to an angle of about ninety degrees. When
you can make a jump round from a straight run at
a moderate speed you should begin to practise the
jump round as a means of Unking one tack with
another. This is considerably more difficult, as on
a steep slope the back of the skis tend to strike the
slope if the jump is not sufficiently pronounced, but
with a little practice the jump round can be used for
making a linked turn in either direction. The points
of the skis, in fact, need to be well lifted for an uphill
jump, and the heels must be lifted when a jump is
used to connect two tacks. It is, of course, difficult
to jump any height if your legs remain straight;
you should therefore pick your legs up, more or less
as if you were trying to skip with skis on your feet.
In this, as in all other ski-ing turns and swings, it
is essential not to hang back but to lean well forward.
In the jump used to connect two tacks the tendency
to hang back is very marked. It is a good plan to
pretend that you are diving head first down the
slope, your natural instincts will be quite sufficient
to prevent you falling on your head. In order to
prepare for the jump it is best to crouch quite low.
Hold your sticks in the middle and horizontal and
crouch down till you can touch your ankles with
your hands, otherwise you will probably not crouch
half as low as you imagine yourself to be crouching.
Count one as you crouch down, and two as you jump,
94 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
and try to make the whole movement rhythmical,
free and swinging, and not nervous and jerky. Many
runners find it very helpful to give a prod with their
left stick if they are jumping round to the left and
vice versa, but it is quite possible to make the jump
round without this prod, and it is better to avoid it.
Of course, in no case will you put both sticks into one
hand. The jump round cannot be made at a very
high speed. It is presumably being made on crusted
snow, so that there will be no side-slips when the
jump is completed, and if you attempt to jump round
at a high speed you will almost be certain to be
thrown outwards. At moderate speeds you will have
to lean in consciously as you land, but at first you
will have to guard against the tendency of over-
leaning and of hanging back. The jump round is
a very tiring manoeuvre, especially if one is carrying
a very heavy sack. It is therefore only a very
practicable turn on moderate tours, and is almost
useless for a mountaineer who is heavily laden. It
is, however, very well worth practising, as apart from
its intrinsic value it is an admirable preparation for
the jerked Christiania or jerked Closti.
HOW TO USE THE SWINGS ON TOUR
Turns and swings are not an end in themselves,
as is the case with skating turns. Straight running
is the ideal ; turns a regrettable necessity, though
fortunately the sensation of fast swings is almost,
if not quite, as fine as that of a fast straight run.
The turns and swings are used (a) to avoid ob-
HOW TO SKI 95
stacles, (b) to control speed on a slope which cannot
be taken straight.
On an open slope the ski-runner can place his turns
where he finds convenient. He has time to prepare
for each turn, and if the slope is big he can allow an
interval between turns. The beginner's early efforts
will all be on open slopes, and by the time he can run
down a steepish slope in a series of linked Telemarks
or Christianias he may begin to fancy that he has
mastered the swings. He has still, however, to learn
to swing at a moment's notice, and to follow up one
swing with another without more than a few seconds
between each swing. This is much more difficult
than making swings on an open slope. It is for this
reason that wood running is such excellent practice,
provided that the trees are not too close together to
forbid continuous running in linked swings.
The beginner will at first be disappointed. The
swing which came so easily on an open slope seems
to miscarry the first time that he is in real need of
its services. He desires, for instance, to stop suddenly
just in front of a tree or other obstacle. His natural
desire to avoid hitting the tree will cause him to lean
far too much away from the tree as he makes his
swing. All the good advice which he has digested,
the advice summed up in the fact that to swing one
must not lean in and must not try to force the swing
by body action, will be forgotten the first time that
he really needs to remember it. He will lean heavily
in ; the swing will misfire and he will be lucky if he
does not cannon into the tree or fall heavily.
Further, on an open slope there is plenty of time
96 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
to prepare for each swing. After one swing, the
beginner can straighten up and run down the hill at
a traverse in normal position before beginning the
next swing. But in a wood it is often necessary to
make two swings in rapid succession, i.e. a Chris-
tiania to the left followed by a Telemark to the right.
It is difficult to make two consecutive Telemarks in
rapid succession, as the back leg has to be brought
forward very quickly and the front leg slid back. It
is easier to follow up a Telemark to the left with a
Christiania to the right than with a Telemark to the
right. On the other hand, anybody who can make
good ' Clostis ' or downhill jerked Christianias will
find no great difficulty in following a jerked Chris-
tiania to the left with a jerked Christiania or Closti
to the right.
Until you can make a swing at a moment's notice
and place it within a fairly narrow margin of ground,
and until you can follow up a swing one way with a
swing the other way without a long pause between,
you have still a great deal to learn, however perfect
your swings may be on open slopes. This is why
wood running is such excellent practice : it is more
than a mere coincidence that Christiania ski-runners
are as famous, as the country round Christiania is
wooded. There is hardly an open slope of any
length within five miles of Christiania.
Remember, too, that the snow will often be ex-
cellent in woods while it has been spoiled by the
wind on open slopes. Seize every opportunity of
wood running. Larch is usually better than pine,
as larches do not crowd so closely together.
HOW TO SKI 97
THE COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGES OF THE VARIOUS
The expert can make any kind of swing on almost
any kind of snow, Telemarks on hard crust and Chris-
tianias in deep, soft snow.
As swings are not an end in themselves, there is no
real point in doing a swing which is not suited to a
certain type of snow where another swing serves
the purpose equally well. Therefore in deep, soft
snow and in soft, breakable crust use the Telemark.
On hard snow use stemming turns and Christianias.
Whereas, however, the average English runner soon
becomes a proficient Telemarker, many runners
seem to prefer using a Telemark in preference to a
stemming turn even on snow which is most unsuit-
able. The Telemark is more used by English runners
than any other turn. This is altogether unsound,
for the Telemark is, in my opinion, less generally
serviceable than the Christiania and stemming turn.
Wherever either swing is equally easy I prefer to
use the Christiania or ' Closti ' to the Telemark.
This is especially true of very long expeditions, for
there is no doubt that the Telemark is a more tiring
turn than the Christiania. The latter is a two-foot
turn ; at the beginning and end of the turn the ski
are nearly parallel and the weight is divided between
both legs. Furthermore, the position of your legs
throughout is easy and natural. The Telemark is
a one-foot turn ; at the end of the swing practically
the whole weight is on the front foot. In case any-
98 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
thing goes wrong the back foot is out of action and
can only with difficulty be brought up to help the
balance. Falls resulting from the Telemark break
more legs than from any other turn, owing to the
tendency of the skis to cross behind. In good snow
the Telemark is an effortless turn, but where the snow
is catchy or inclined to skid the Telemark is a dis-
tinct strain. This does not matter on short tours,
but on long expeditions, especially those in the High
Alps, every ounce of extra effort is serious, and in
the High Alps the stemming turn on difficult snow
and linked Clostis or Christianias on good snow seem
to me far preferable for general use to the Telemark.
If you are carrying a heavy sack, a sudden Telemark
is apt to upset you, for the sack swings round and,
owing to the Telemark position, it is much more
difficult to withstand any sudden outward strain —
such as that caused by the sack — than in the Chris-
tiania position. Finally, the Telemark is a one-foot
and the Christiania or Closti a two-foot turn, so that
in the former case the strain and weight come prim-
arily on the leading foot.
The Stemming turn on difficult and the ' Closti ;
or jerked Closti on easy snow, and the Telemark in
soft breakable crust or in really good powder snow,
is my own practice. I have already explained that
though any form of Christiania can be used for a stop
turn, the ' Closti/ helped out, perhaps, with a jerk,
is the safest form of Christiania for downhill linked
The ordinary open Christiania is a delightful and
most effective swing on good snow, but on crust that
HOW TO SKI 99
is irregular, lumpy or catchy, you are liable to have
a nasty fall. The skis instead of coming round run
apart if the outside ski catches any obstruction. I
have seen one knee very badly strained as a result
of an open Christiania that had gone wrong.
Personally I never feel so safe as when making
jerked ' Clostis ' at high speed on any snow save very
deep powder snow, soft breakable crust, or the smooth
polished glassy crust that one sometimes finds in
winter on south slopes or — of course — on snow spoiled
by the wind. On almost any other kind of snow the
' Closti ' seems to me to be the safest, least tiring,
and most effective of all swings.
USE OF THE STICK
I have assumed that the beginner never uses his
stick as a brake, that he habitually skis with a stick
in each hand, and that beyond an occasional prod
with a single stick at the end of a fast swing he re-
gards the sticks solely as a help uphill.
Until he has passed the third-class test he had
better regard all other uses of the stick as taboo.
There are, however, a few exceptional cases where
the stick can be and should be used as a brake.
The fastest way of descending a hill is a straight,
free descent without using your sticks. The next
fastest way is to run down straight, braking with your
sticks. A free descent without sticks in a series of
linked turns is slower than a straight descent helped
out by stick braking.
On most expeditions speed is not so important
ioo CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
that it is worth while spoiling a run in order to save
a few minutes. It is therefore far more enjoyable
and far less tiring, and far better for your ski-ing to
descend a hill by linked stickless swings than by a
straight run helped out by braking with your sticks.
Only when speed is really vital should the stick be
deliberately employed as a brake.
In a race, for instance, even a fine runner will find
sticks useful if he knows how to use them. There
are slopes which the finest Norwegian could not take
straight because the outrun is too abrupt, and there
are slopes which he could just take straight if he
could reduce his speed so as to reach the outrun
rather less rapidly than would be the case in a free
descent. Therefore if he is racing he should run all
slopes straight — most slopes straight and without
using his sticks — but such slopes as he cannot take
straight in a free descent he must run straight, check-
ing his speed with his sticks.
I have judged the Roberts of Kandahar race on
four occasions. On each occasion the winner used
his sticks. On three occasions the race was won by
J. L. Mercer, who is one of the finest ski runners that
England has yet produced. Apart from racing he
never uses his sticks but runs in the free Norwegian
style. He ran steep slopes straight in Telemark
position with both sticks held firmly together and
used deliberately as a brake.
But it is not only in a race that speed is vital. A
mountaineer will often have to race not against
human competitors but against the oncoming night
or the threat of a storm. I remember once finding
HOW TO SKI 101
myself on a glacier pass at five o'clock on a winter's
evening. Our party had climbed seven thousand
feet on deep powder snow and we were all very tired.
The valley was six thousand feet below. The snow
w r as difficult, wind-blown and hard. My friend had
been brought up in the true faith, and he had never
learned to use his sticks. He despised stick riding,
which was very right and proper, but, none the less,
he soon regretted that he did not know how to use
his sticks. I was able to run straight and fast over
this difficult snow by copious use of my sticks as a
brake, whereas he had to run in gentle tacks. As
a result we lost precious time. Half-an-hour saved
on the summit slopes would have saved three hours
lower down, for the night came before we had reached
easy ground, and we had three hours of difficult ski-
ing by lantern light.
In a mist, in bad light or in a storm, it is vital to
know how to use your sticks. I remember another
occasion when the light failed at the end of a very
long day. We had climbed eight thousand feet in
deep snow, and the last rays of light found us ski-ing
in a thick nebelmeer. My friend and I had both
learned to stick-ride in prehistoric days, and we ran
down in Telemark position braking with our sticks and
managed to get down fifteen hundred feet in bad
light in about a quarter of an hour, thanks to our
sturdy sticks. Incidentally I should remark that
for bad light where gradients are difficult to detect
there is nothing to beat the Telemark position with
both sticks firmly held in the same hand and used
as a brake.
102 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
On snow which varies in speed from yard to yard,
such as hard, wind-swept crust, varied by soft pockets
of sticky snow, you can either descend in a series of
very gentle tacks or you can run straight, riding
boldly on your stick. The former is the pleasanter,
the latter the faster method, and where speed is
important the latter method should be adopted.
In breakable crust the stick is often useful. Of
course the proper method is to jump round, and on
short tours the jump round is an amusing and useful
manoeuvre. But for serious mountaineering the
jump round is far too tiring. If you doubt this,
climb six or seven thousand feet with a heavy sack
and try to make your turns in difficult snow on the
descent by jumping round ! With a heavy sack the
jump round is a waste of energy.
There is a certain type of soft breakable crust in
which slow Telemarks are quite easy, but in which
a fast stop turn is almost impossible by normal
methods. If you try to stop by a Telemark you are
almost certain to be thrown outwards. If you lean
in to start the turn, your ski will not come round, and
if your speed is really high, your ski will stop so
dead in the breakable crust when the turn is com-
pleted that an outward fall is almost inevitable.
The same is even more true of the jump round, which
can only be done at moderate speeds. Now it is
sometimes necessary to stop suddenly while travelling
very fast in soft breakable crust, and on such occasions
hastily put both sticks into the same hand and stop
by means of the good old-fashioned ( Stick Chris-
tiania/ The stick properly used enables one to get
HOW TO SKI 103
enough weight off one's ski to start the turn — even
if there is much resistance from the breakable crust —
and the stick also enables you to exaggerate the in-
ward lean at the end of the turn without any fear
that you will fall inwards.
On very difficult snow the stick can also be used
to help out a downhill stemming turn.
There is, of course, a right way and a wrong way
to use your sticks. It is no use hanging heavily back
and leaning back on to the sticks. The real test is
whether you would fall backwards if your sticks
were suddenly removed. The sticks are not intended
as a support but as a brake. You should run in
normal position, crouching fairly low, and you should
lean forwards not backwards. See page 42 for the
proper method of crouching. Your sticks should be
held together, and you should get your hands as low
down on the sticks as possible. On really difficult
gradients you may put your sticks between your
legs and even ride on them.
Caulfeild's classic was written at a time when
British ski-ing was at a low ebb. It was necessary
to exaggerate the reaction against the universal habit
of stick riding which disfigured British running. His
book served its purpose, and the old ugly style dis-
appeared. It may now be admitted, without fear
of a general relapse, that the occasional use of the
stick is not only permissible but desirable. Where
speed is really essential the stick should be used as
a brake, and slopes should be run as straight as pos-
sible. Everybody — even Caulfeild — would admit this.
104 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
The few real stickless bigots are usually people who
have no notion how to use the stick, and who have
never climbed more than three or four thousand feet
in a day. No mountaineer of any experience who
knew how to use his stick would maintain the dogma
of pure sticklessness.
I write this with a certain nervousness, for the
occasions when the stick can be used without shame
are so few and far between that I hesitate to say any-
thing which might lead the beginner astray. I have
skied for day after day among the High Alps on
every type of snow without ever using the stick, and
on small expeditions I don't suppose I use my sticks
once in a season. It is far better to run more slowly
without the sticks than quickly with the sticks on
ninety-nine times out of a hundred. The good
runner can almost always jump round if the snow is
really difficult, except on very long tours or when he
is very heavily laden.
So I would say (i) Don't use your sticks at all till
you have passed the third-class test. (2) Don't use
them even then unless speed is of primary import-
ance, as in a race either against competitors or against
storm and night.
The less you use the stick, the more useful you will
find the sticks in an emergency provided you know
how to use them. Twenty years ago when I began
to ski I always used my sticks, and consequently I
never found their assistance gave me any confidence.
Now that I have given up their use, I find that if
I have to use them, the additional security they give
me is priceless for fast running on bad snow. It is
HOW TO SKI 105
a real relief after a severe day in the High Alps to
wind up with half an hour of stick riding where the
snow or the light makes free running difficult. But
this relief is the reward of many seasons in which
the use of the stick was entirely abandoned.
THE ELEMENTS OF SNOWCRAFT
THE expert cross-country ski-runner must not
only be a fast and safe runner on all kinds of
snow and ground, but he must also possess a thorough
knowledge of snowcraft. Unfortunately there are
nine ski-runners whose Telemarks are perfect for one
whose knowledge of snow is even adequate, and the
number of those whose understanding of snow in all
seasons of the year is really expert is still extremely
small. A rudimentary knowledge of snow conditions
is forced on even the least observant. A man who
has run from fast into sticky snow and pitched
heavily on his face is almost forced to make certain
deductions as to the fickle habits of his running
surface. Furthermore, a ski-runner's knowledge of
snow needs to be instinctive. On foot a man has
time to probe and to examine, but on skis you have
to diagnose the snow while travelling at a high speed.
A mottled look on the slope far below, an instinctive
realization that you are travelling from a west slope
on to a south-west slope with the consequent change
of snow, such are the almost instantaneous clues
which determine the position of ski and body with
which you may successfully meet a sudden change
THE ELEMENTS OF SNOWCRAFT 107
of speed on the part of the snow. I have said ' in-
stinctive/ but instinct is merely the rapid and un-
conscious application of past experiences.
In this chapter I cannot do more than summarize
some of the more elementary facts about snow. For
a fuller treatment of the subject I refer the reader
to my own contribution to Mountain Craft, edited by
Mr. G. W. Young.
In winter the best snow is usually found on northern
slopes. A normal snowfall is accompanied by a
temperature below freezing. For a day or two after
the snow has stopped falling the snow will be usually
rather heavy and slow, but, day by day, it improves,
and if the frosts at night are sharp, newly fallen
snow will usually give excellent running. Every ski-
runner is familiar with powder snow, the typical
winter snow in which straight running and swings
are easy and safe.
Powder snow remains unspoiled until it is affected
either by sun, by wind, or by general air temperature
above freezing. Of these wind is the most disastrous.
Snow which has been exposed to strong wind pre-
sents the most unpleasant appearance. It is always
crusted, and the crust is sometimes icy, and is some-
times varied by soft pockets of sticky snow. Wind
never does any good to snow, and although powder
snow which has only been rippled by the wind is
quite skiable, half-an-hour's storm is quite sufficient
to wreck a perfect snow slope.
The effect of the sun is less disastrous and depends
mainly upon the angle of inclination. In mid-winter,
for instance, a northern slope remains unaffected by
108 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
the sun even though it is exposed to the sun for
several hours in the course of the day. Even level
slopes in mid-winter remain powdery for a consider-
able time. On the other hand south slopes soon
acquire a crust. The snow melts by day and re-
freezes by night. At first the crust is soft and break-
able, and soft, breakable crust, provided it is true
and does not vary in speed one place to another, is
quite a good running surface. The expert can bring
off Telemarks in breakable crust without much
difficulty. Sometimes, however, the crust is solid
at one point, and bears the ski without breaking
only to crack a few yards lower down. This kind
of crust, known as ' trap crust/ is frequently more
common in spring than in winter ; it is perhaps the
worst of all possible ski-ing surfaces.
In winter breakable crust soon changes into solid
crust as the process of melting and re-freezing con-
tinues. Solid crust formed in winter is usually very
hard and very slippery and gives little purchase to
the skis. On steep slopes it is a tiresome running
surface as the ski skids sideways, and it is difficult to
obtain sufficient purchase to start or finish a turn.
This crust is known as marble crust.
In winter the choice of route for the descent is
usually simple ; the best snow is usually found on
northern slopes. If you cannot get a slope that
faces north, select a route of down slopes which are
just north of west, or of east. A degree or two of
north makes a world of difference.
In mid-winter slopes which face east or west often
hold powder snow for a very long time ; slopes which
THE ELEMENTS OF SNOWCRAFT 109
face a few degrees south of east or west will hold
powder for some days. Of course, an eastern slope
gets exactly the same amount of sun as a western
slope, and further, the sun strikes both slopes at the
same angle. One would therefore presume that
snow would be similarly affected on, say, a south-
east and on a south-west slope, or on a due east and
a due west slope. None the less, numerous and care-
ful observations to test this question convince me
that eastern slopes yield better ski-ing than western.
It may be that the cold morning air tends to protect
the snow more from the sun than the warmer after-
noon air ; that the morning sun has first to warm the
atmosphere before it can affect the snow, and that
this gives eastern slopes a slight advantage. What-
ever may be the reason, it is certainly true that snow
on eastern slopes remains good rather longer than
on western slopes.
Further, westerly winds are very much more
common than east winds, so that snow facing east
is less likely to be disturbed by wind.
Even on a slope which faces south, it is often pos-
sible to find northern snow. The descent from the
Wildgerst to Rosenlaui is a case in point. The
descent lies, in the main, down slopes which face
nearly due south, but there is a small tributary ridge,
not more than two hundred feet in height, which
runs out from a point just below the Wildgerst : its
general direction is at first due east, and later, south-
east, and it extends for some considerable distance
down to Rosenlaui. I remember running down in
the shadow of this little ridge and finding perfect
no CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
powder snow on its northern and north-eastern slopes,
though the snow all around had been spoiled by the
sun. If your descent lies down a slope, whose general
direction is southerly, you should always look out
for any tributary ridge which is not at right angles to
the slope. Of course if the slope is due south and
the tributary ridge runs from north to south it will
not help you very much : but such cases are ex-
ceptional. On the other hand you will often find a
slope which faces, say, south-east and a tributary
slope which runs out in a more or less easterly
direction, thus giving a choice of route either on
its north side, which should hold powder snow, or
on its south side where the snow will probably be
It is most important to realize such possibilities,
more especially at the beginning and at the end of
the winter, in early November and in early March.
Even the smallest mounds or ridges are formed by
slopes which face in at least two directions. It is
quite common to find on a slope whose general direc-
tion is easterly or westerly, mounds or little ridges
which hold powder snow on their north and crusted
snow on their south sides. I have seen a little hillock
not more than three feet high with perfect powder
on one side and crust on the other side. A little
ridge running down a slope, perhaps six feet in height,
will often yield a perfect ribbon of powder snow, a
yard or two in breadth, surrounded by crusted
THE ELEMENTS OF SNOWCRAFT ill
There is one important difference between winter
and spring ski-ing. In mid-winter if a slope has
been spoiled by wind or by thaw, it will remain
usually bad until new snow falls. The winter sun is
strong enough to melt snow on a south slope, thereby
forming a crust, but it is usually not strong enough to
remelt a crust once formed, though it may produce
a surface softening which will give good ski-ing
during the hottest part of the day.
In spring, on the other hand, every snow-slope
goes through a daily cycle of changes. At dawn on
a typical spring day (say April) the snow will be hard,
unbreakable crust. When the sun strikes this crust
it will, at first, superficially soften and for an hour
or even more will yield wonderful running, for, with
the exception of perfect powder snow there is no
ski-ing surface finer than hard crust superficially
softened to a depth of an inch or two by the sun.
This kind of crust is called Telemark crust.
Towards midday the Telemark crust disappears,
all trace of underlying crust usually vanishes and the
slopes are covered by wet thawed snow. (Of course
at high altitudes even powder snow is not unknown
in April, and at moderate altitudes the snow may
become wet and heavy without being thawed through
right down to the ground.) In general, the early
afternoon is a bad and very dangerous period of a
spring day. It is in the early afternoon or just before
midday that most of the great spring avalanches fall.
H2 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
Towards sunset the snow begins to freeze again
and assume a crust. This crust is at first soft and
breakable and gives good running directly it begins
to get cold. Eventually the soft breakable crust is
frozen solid, and as the last light disappears, the
slopes will again be covered by hard, unbreakable
crust. The cycle of the spring day is complete.
Now whatever has gone before, the sun is strong
enough to produce the same cycle of changes directly
normal weather returns. Provided a slope is covered
by snow, the first day of sun followed by frost at
night will produce a hard crust on the following
morning. Wind, the great enemy of the winter ski-
runner, has no effect in spring, for even if the wind
spoils a slope of newly fallen snow, the spring sun
is sufficiently powerful to reduce the wind-formed
crust to soft, thawed snow, which is again melted and
re-frozen into hard crust.
Hard crust at dawn — Telemark crust before mid-
day — soft snow in the afternoon — soft, breakable
crust at sunset — hard crust at night.
Such is the cycle of a spring day.
Spring ski-ing is delightful. In March powder
snow, rather heavier and slower than winter powder,
is very common on north slopes. This is a fine
surface, but it is rather liable to avalanche.
The normal morning snow is ' Telemark crust ' pro-
vided, of course, you can time your descent aright,
but the evening snows are also very good indeed.
Ski-ing in March, April, and even in May is often
quite first-class. I have skied at Miirren down to
THE ELEMENTS OF SNOWCRAFT 113
5000 feet into the middle of May — not owing to an
accidental snowfall, but in fine May weather. In
March, powder snow is common right down to 5000
feet on northern slopes. This so-called spring
powder is more compact, less powdery, and not so
fast as the dry powder of winter. It is, none the less,
a first-class running surface with only one disadvan-
tage : it is rather liable to avalanche. But the
finest spring running is obtained early in the morning
in April or in May.
I have already explained that the crust formed in
winter either by sun or by wind is usually unpleasant.
Marble crust is hard, very slippery, and does not
afford enough purchase to make swings easy.
In April, on the other hand, the solid hard crust
found at dawn on all slopes save at very high altitudes,
is not nearly so smooth. It is covered by little holes ;
its texture is rougher : it gives an admirable pur-
chase, so that stemming turns and Christianias are
easy even on very steep slopes.
This kind of crust is called perforated crust.
There is another kind of crust which is found on
the glaciers in May and June which is known as film
crust. Unlike marble crust and perforated crust, it
is not quite homogeneous. It is composed of a hard
under-surface of solid crust, covered by a very thin,
transparent film of soft ice which glistens in the sun
like burnished silver. This film gives a wonderful
purchase. As the skis come round on a fast swing,
this soft film is shaved off the underlying surface ;
it is sufficiently powerful to prevent side-slip ; suf-
ii4 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
ficiently soft to give way as the skis cut round on a
But if I get on to the subject of May ski-ing among
the glaciers — for me the finest form of ski-ing yet
discovered — I shall waste more space than I can
The reader will have noticed that marble crust
formed by the low temperatures of winter is very
unpleasant, that perforated crust formed by the milder
temperatures of early spring is a fine surface, and that
film crust formed by the still milder temperatures of
May or June is even better. This fact puzzled me
for some time : I am still unable to account for it,
but snow certainly seems to obey a law which may
be expressed as follows :
Provided the night's frost is sufficiently severe to
produce a solid crust, the milder the frost the better
This law is useful, and helps a ski runner to
secure good ski-ing in spring. Again and again while
starting a run from some high glacier pass on a spring
morning I have had vile running on marble crust for
the first thousand feet, and perfect running lower
down, for the lower I descended the milder had been
one night's frost and consequently the better the
crust formed by that night's frost.
Of course it is usually possible to wait till the sun
has superficially softened the crust and in this case,
marble crust, perforated crust, and film crust all
soften into 'Telemark crust,' a wonderful surface.
But the great advantage about perforated and film
THE ELEMENTS OF SNOWCRAFT 115
crust is that one need not wait for the sun. One can
start from some high club-hut with the first light and
secure excellent ski-ing, thereby gaining the lower
levels while the snow is still hard, for below six or
seven thousand feet the snow is rapidly reduced to
wet, heavy dangerous stuff, the moment the May sun
MAKING THE BEST OF BAD CONDITIONS
Thaw or wind may spoil the best snow ; no new
snow may fall for days and even weeks, and the ski-
runner who knows nothing of snowcraft may take
to curling in despair.
And yet a knowledge of snow will enable the per-
severing runner to obtain wonderful ski-ing on days
when ski-ing seems impossible. Let us suppose that
it has rained heavily up to eight or nine thousand feet
and that this rain has been followed by a sharp frost
and a week or so of cloudless weather. The snow that
has been rained upon will be re-frozen when the cold
returns and will present the same solid hard crusted
surface till a new snow falls.
But this crust can be made to yield good ski-ing.
You have only to reverse your normal winter
tactics. Instead of seeking out northern slopes and
shady slopes, try to arrange your descent on southern
slopes and to time your descent for the time when
the sun is shining most direct on your line of descent.
The crust, however hard, will soften a little in the
sun and this superficial softening will be just enough
to enable your skis to find purchase for stemming
n6 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
turns and Christianias. Woe betide the man who
can only Telemark ! The good stemmer and Chris-
tiania expert will enjoy wonderful running while the
Telemark king is badly at sea.
Sometimes wet fohn which brings rain is followed
by dry fohn which brings fine weather. Dry fohn
is a peculiar warm, dry feeling in the air, less a wind
than an atmosphere. The sky may be cloudless and
windless, but the dry fohn may send up the tempera-
ture in the sun to tropic heights. In this case the
hard crust will be melted to a depth of an inch or
two producing ' Telemark crust/ i.e. typical spring
The nights too may be much milder, and in this
case the crust next morning will resemble the per-
forated crust of spring — see above — rather than the
slabby icy marble crust of winter. This winter per-
forated crust is commoner than one might suppose.
It is pockmarked, and clearly differentiated from
any other kind of snow. The perforated crust is
useful, for it gives good running at any time when
the sun is not shining on it.
Remember the law that I have quoted, ' provided
the frost is sufficiently severe to produce a solid crust,
the milder the frost the better the crust/
I remember a period of three weeks at Miirren —
three weeks of cloudless skies and perfect weather.
Unfortunately a day's rain had preceded this fine
period, so all slopes below ten thousand feet were
covered with hard crust. Periods of cold were
varied by days of dry fohn, and when the dry fohn
was in the air we had perfect running on typical
THE ELEMENTS OF SNOWCRAFT 117
spring ' Telemark crust.' I remember an ascent of
the Fauhorn during this period. The snow on the
top thousand feet was marble crust, but lower down
the dry fohn had produced perforated crust. (The
lower we went, the milder had been the nights and
hence the better the crust.) Even the top slopes
were slightly softened by the sun, and the last four
thousand feet gave us perfect running. So, when
rain has been followed by fine weather reverse your
winter tactics. You must try to apply spring snow-
craft. Choose south slopes in preference to north
slopes, low altitudes in preference to high altitudes,
and sunny rather than shady slopes.
Sometimes good running is obtained when the
night's frost has been unusually severe, for then the
hard crust gets broken up and disintegrated into
numberless wonderful crystals which yield perfect
ski-ing. But to produce this effect, the frost must
be helped by dampness, so that this disintegrated
crust is only found on slopes near rivers or streams.
It is the river mist which produces this effect.
Of course the thaw may be so severe that if you
are staying at a low-lying centre the snow may have
been stripped from the lower slopes. But it is sur-
prising how little snow is necessary for fine running.
A quarter of an inch on mown grass gives great sport.
Remember too that slopes look much more snowless
from below than from above. If the slopes are com-
posed of sloping terraces interspersed with steeper
slopes, the steeper slopes will perhaps be bare of
snow and the sloping shelves above covered with
snow. From below you see only the steep denuded
n8 CROSS-COUNTRY SKI-ING
slopes and not the gentler slopes which hold snow, so
that a slope which appears from below quite snow-
less will seem snow-covered from above.
When no new snow has fallen for a long period the
familiar runs will be covered with tracks, but it is
always possible to get good ski-ing by diverging from
the beaten track. The crowd follow the line of least
resistance, gentle traverses across a slope. A bold
straight run will often enable you to find perfect
powder. If the run is among trees, there will often
be yards of unspoiled snow near or between the trees,
for the beginner gives trees a wide berth.
Snow which is thoroughly melted does not stick.
Snow sticks when it is in an intermediate stage be-
tween melting and freezing or when melting snow
overlies cold powder snow. But snow which has
been thoroughly melted and then re-frozen will not
stick if it is again melted. It may be slow but it
will not stick. An inch of wet slushy snow on well
mown grass gives wonderful running.
For ' Avalanches ' see Mountain Craft, where I have
dealt at length with this difficult branch of snowcraft.
Printed by T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty
at the Edinburgh University Press